PARIS: At the time it was hailed the greatest 100 metres race in history, but within 24 hours Ben Johnson had been stripped of his gold medal for taking drugs.
Now Johnson is threatening to sue the International Olympic Committee after the top American Olympic drugs chief alleged Carl Lewis should never have run in the 1988 Seoul Olympics because he had tested postive for drugs himself.
Lewis was handed the gold medal when Johnson was disqualified for testing positive for the banned anabolic steroid stanolozol.
If Lewis were to be stripped of his medal – not that the IOC is thinking about it – that would mean Britain's Linford Christie could claim the gold.
And yet Christie himself was lucky to hang on to his medal – a bronze upgraded to silver after Johnson's disqualification – after the IOC Medical Commission accepted by one vote his argument that it was the Korean herbal drink Ginseng that caused his own positive test for pseudoephedrine.
Christie was later banned for two years after testing positive for the anabolic steroid nandrolone.
“The rules of the IOC stipulate that no decision taken in the context of the Olympics can be challenged after a period of three years from the day of the closing ceremony,” said Giselle Davies, the IOC spokeswoman.
Olympic 100m champion Maurice Greene has called for an investigation into the allegations.
USOC officials dispute claims that results of drug tests were suppressed. And Lewis' lawyer Martin Singer said the athlete never took anything with the intent to enhance performance.
Lewis went on to win gold medals at Seoul in the long jump and 100m.
Johnson, who had disposed of Lewis in a stunning 100m in the 1987 world championships in Rome, broke the tape with his right arm raised in triumph in a then world record 9.97s.
The race stunned the crowd of 70,000 at the Seoul Olympic stadium.
Now it looks like a sham. Dennis Mitchell, who would also have benefited if Lewis had not been there, by finishing third instead of fourth, has also had problems with the dope-busters.
He was later banned for testosterone, despite claiming the test result was from drinking beer and having sex the night before submitting his urine sample.
Desai Williams, a Canadian training partner of Johnson's who finished sixth, was later implicated in the Canadian government-sponsored Dubin Inquiry as having used drugs during his career.
Lewis was one of 19 American medallists named by Wade Exum, the former United States Olympic Committee director for drug control from 1991 to 2000, who released more than 30,000 pages of documents relating to cases detailing cover-ups involving some of the biggest American names in Olympic sport.
Exum's papers reveal more than 100 positive drug tests involving US athletes from 1988 to 2000. Included in the documents are details implicating athletes who won 19 Olympic medals from 1984 to 2000.
Lewis was just one of three future gold medallists, along with the 200m winner Joe DeLoach and the 400m hurdle champion Andre Phillips, who tested positive at the Olympic trials in Indianapolis.
Dick Pound, head of the recently set-up World Anti-Doping Agency, claimed letters purportedly written by the then USOC executive director Baaron Pittenger, advising Lewis, DeLoach and Phillips they had tested positive but were being cleared to compete in Seoul, was proof of a cover-up.
Since retiring from athletics in 1997 Lewis has cut himself off from the sport and trying, with little success, to build an acting career in Hollywood.
And the athletics success of the man voted the greatest athlete of the 20th century by the International Association of Athletics Federations is also now being doubted. – AFP