On September 24th, 1988, at the Seoul Olympic Games, the two fastest men in the world, Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis, competed in the final hundred meter final. The Seoul Olympics had been eagerly anticipated, especially after the past two Olympic games were marred by boycotts from the USA in 1980 and the USSR in 1984. For the first time in a long time, all the major nations would be facing off in the Korean capital. Most of the media attention was focused on the protagonists competing in the one hundred meter final. American Carl Lewis was called the “son of the wind”, and he dominated the previous Olympic games, winning four gold medals. By 1988, however, he had found a rival equal to his own high standards, the Canadian born Ben Johnson. The two had already competed in a very memorable race during the World Championships in Rome in 1987. Despite Lewis equaling the previous world record, Johnson won by a tenth of a second and set a new world record at 9.83. Just prior to the Olympics in Seoul, Lewis had beaten Johnson in a race. The Olympics, therefore, became the perfect setting for the ultimate challenge in speed.
As the athletes readied themselves at the starting line, Lewis and Johnson’s faces were a study in absolute concentration.
The call came to go to their starting blocks and the energy in the stadium was at fever pitch. Ben Johnson started strong, and halfway through the race he was clearly in the lead, with Lewis trailing behind. Victory seemed within reach and he crossed the finish line with his arms raised in triumph. His time was 9.79, a new world record. Moments after the race, Lewis shook hands with rival. Lewis’s personal best had been 9.92, not enough to win the race. Ben Johnson became the hero of the Seoul Olympics.
The legend of Ben Johnson, however, lasted only three days. The Canadian athlete later tested positive for doping. He had used anabolic steroids, banned by the sporting authorities, to enhance his performance.
Johnson lost not only the gold medal but also had his world record stricken from the books. He later confessed that he had used steroids a year earlier during the World Championships in Rome. He would also surrender the gold for that race, leaving his reputation was in tatters. Carl Lewis would go on to wins two gold medals and became the new world record holder with 9.92 . The Seoul Olympics were subsequently overshadowed by doping scandals. Although the practice was well known and widespread, it had never before reached the media & the public in such a significant way. Ben Johnson was banned from competition for 2 years. Upon his return to racing, he again tested positive and was banned for life. Johnson, however, was not alone. Other finalists in the hundred meters at Seoul would become embroiled in doping scandals throughout the course of their careers.