The scene on the quiet suburban street last week reflected the bitterness that had spilled over from the most shocking event of the Seoul Olympic Games. Since Ben Johnson’s Sept. 27 return from Korea, reporters and cameramen had waited outside his house in eastern Toronto in the hope that the athlete would explain why tests in Seoul showed traces of the banned anabo-
lic steroid stanozolol in his urine. That discovery had led to Johnson being stripped of his Olympic gold medal for the 100-m sprint. And by Oct. 3, Johnson was clearly beginning to show the strain. That day, he ran out of the house, jumped into his sleek Ferrari Testarossa and drove away—only to be pulled over by a policeman for speeding. The runner—who had been trying to elude the media—later shoved two photographers. Three days after, a motorist complained that Johnson had pointed a gun at him while driving— and police subsequently discovered a starter’s pistol in the athlete’s car.
But on Oct. 4, Johnson appeared to be in a less combative mood when, in the company of his parents and his lawyer, Edward Futerman, he read a formal statement to journalists at a Toronto hotel. The muscular, Jamaican-born athlete repeated his earlier statement that he had “never knowingly taken illegal drugs.” But his remarks shed no new light on the crucial question of why he failed the drug test following his race on Sept. 23. And two official inquiries into the controversy may take weeks to reach any conclusions.
Federal Sports Minister Jean Charest announced that Associate Chief Justice of Ontario Charles Dubin will conduct an inquiry into the Johnson affair and the use of drugs by Canadian athletes. According to Charest, Dubin, 67, will have the power to subpoena athletes, coaches, doctors, officials of athletic organizations—and to recommend criminal charges if necessary. At the same time, the
College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario is investigating the medical practice of Johnson’s doctor, George Mario Garnie) Astaphan. Astaphan has stated unequivocally that the steroids in Johnson’s system “didn’t come from me.” Officials of Sterling Drug Ltd. of Aurora, Ont., last week confirmed that the company had sold an undisclosed quantity of stanozolol to the doctor.
Another key player in the controversy, Johnson’s coach, Charlie Francis, commented for the first time since the Olympics. In a written statement, Francis insisted that, in his opinion, Johnson’s test result “can only be explained by a deliberate manipulation of the testing process.” And Johnson maintained in his own statement that people who know him well “know I wouldn’t take drugs.” Added the beleaguered athlete: “I would never embarrass my family, my friends, my country and the kids who love me.” With that, Johnson left the conference, pleading for the media to recognize that he and his family needed time to be by themselves.
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