Sports

Ben Johnson failed drug test 2 years before Seoul

One year before becoming the world's fastest human, Ben Johnson tested positive for a banned substance, the since disgraced Canadian sprinter told CBC Sports on Tuesday.

Found out about 1986 test result years later, ex-sprinter claims in CBC interview

One year before becoming the world's fastest human, Ben Johnson tested positive for a banned substance, the since disgraced Canadian sprinter told CBC Sports on Tuesday.

Johnson's former coach, the late Charlie Francis, told him several years after the 1986 Zurich International meet that he had failed a drug test at the event, Johnson said in an interview with CBC reporter Lance Winn.

Johnson, who is in the midst of a promotional tour for his new book Seoul to Soul, defeated U.S. and Olympic champion Carl Lewis for the fist time at that meet, which began his progression to the top of the track and field world and set the two sprinters up as bitter rivals.

A year later, he set the world record at the 1987 Rome world track and field championships in a time of 9.83 seconds.

He then beat his own world record at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul with a time of 9.79 but was stripped of his medal three days after his historic victory for testing positive for the steroid stanozolol.

Johnson insisted a stranger had set him up, spiking his drink with the drug.

In his book, Johnson alleges the person who set him up was Andre Jackson, a family friend of Lewis and a former U.S. football player, as part of a larger conspiracy to give Lewis the advantage.

Lewis was given the gold after Johnson lost it in 1988.

Jackson was also behind the failed drug test in Zurich, Johnson alleged in the CBC interview, but he was vague as to why the result of that test never became public, saying only that as far as he knew, Francis took care of it.

"I didn't know about [the Zurich test] … until Charlie [spoke] to me many years after when everything [was] unfolding with this Andre Jackson stuff," Johnson said. "I was totally surprised because it never came out, and everything was done with."

Johnson alleges Jackson was part of Lewis's entourage throughout the 1980s and befriended Johnson with the aim of setting him up to fail his drug test in Seoul to give Lewis the gold.

Johnson says he travelled to Los Angeles on the advice of his ailing mother in 2004 to meet Jackson, who, he claims, admitted to him that he did spike his drink during the Seoul Games.

At the time of his positive test, Johnson, along with his then agent Larry Heidebrecht and Francis, insisted a stranger gave Johnson a mysterious drink with a bad-smelling "yellow gooey substance" at the bottom of the bottle.

Their claims fell on deaf ears, however and Johnson was banished from competition.