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Pause, rewind, play: Ben Johnson and the dirtiest race in Olympics history


American great Carl Lewis stole the show at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, when he matched Jesse Owens’ achievement of winning four gold medals in the 100m, the 200m, the long jump and the 4x100m relay.

With the Soviet Union and its allies boycotting the Games, just as America and its allies had boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics, the record perhaps didn’t get the kind of respect it deserved but there was no doubting Lewis’ class – he was on top of the world and it looked like few could catch him.

But then suddenly, a rival made an appearance. In 1980, when he was still just another scrawny kid, Canada’s Ben Johnson raced Lewis for the first time. The event was the Junior PanAms in Sudbury, Ontario. Lewis won in 10.43 seconds; Johnson came sixth in 10.88.

Johnson, however, started getting better at a starling pace. His scrawny physique started putting on the kind of muscle that only bodybuilders possess and with that muscle came pace and a ton of wins.

In 1982, Johnson won a silver medal in the Commonwealth Games and in the 1984 Olympics, he prevented an American podium sweep and came home with bronze.

Good but not as good as King Carl. Johnson lost his…

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