If he could turn back time, former track star Ben Johnson says he likely wouldn’t have run for Canada.
Johnson is revisiting the infamous men's 100-metre final at the 1988 Seoul Olympics as the British documentary 9.79* makes its TV debut. Directed and produced by British filmmaker Daniel Gordon, the doc examines the unforgettable race that saw Jamaican-born Canadian Johnson triumph with a time of 9.79 seconds before subsequently losing his gold medal amid a doping scandal that reverberated internationally.
If he could go back and do things differently, "I probably wouldn’t run for Canada. I probably would have run for Jamaica," Johnson told CBC News in September, when 9.79* had its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.
"Canada never protected me or tried to reach out," he continued. "They just left me in the middle of the river and said 'Swim, buddy.’"
What happened to the eight sprinters?
Along with its portrait of the Olympic final, 9.79* delves into the back stories as well as the present lives of the eight rivals who competed: Johnson, Carl Lewis, Linford Christie, Dennis Mitchell, Robson Da Silva, Calvin Smith, Ray Stewart and Desai Williams.
"They've all gone different paths. They're not all involved in track, they've not all had easy lives afterwards," Gordon told the Canadian Press at TIFF.
"They all have their own version of the truth," he said. "And actually it may be the truth in their eyes."
Of the eight contenders in the race, Smith and Da Silva have not subsequently been linked to drugs. The film is hitting screens as media coverage ramps up on another performance-enhancing drug scandal involving a well-known sports figure: cyclist Lance Armstrong.
According to Johnson, who now lives a quiet life just north of Toronto, participating in the doc served as vindication of sorts.
"I'm glad things are turning around and the whole world and the public can see the real side, that I was not the only one who was using performance-enhancing drugs," he said.
"All the athletes were denying, denying, denying. But in the end, the way they put the documentary together, it shows that everybody was just protecting themselves."
Financed by the BBC and ESPN, which aired the film this week as part of its 30 for 30 documentary series, 9.79* will be broadcast in Canada on TSN Thursday evening. A British broadcast date is forthcoming.