Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The gun went off. But the race has never been over.

God, can Stephen Brunt write.

The Globe has been running a series of articles that mark the twentieth anniversary of Ben Johnson (telling is that there is no need to expand that thought. Ben Johnson is all any Canadian, anyone period, needs to see to understand what is being discussed). Canada's best sportswriter (it's not a close race) weighs in today.

More of the worthwhile series can be read here, here and here.

They were all dirty. Every last one of them. Yet Ben, poor, dumb Ben was the only one that went down for it. As Brunt tellingly points out, he remains the only big name to go down during an Olympics. Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery are really the only other big sprinting names to get nailed, and even then it was only because of the work of Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams.

And poor, dumb Canada was the only country to twist itself in a knot over the fallout. A conspiracy theorist might even suggest that Johnson was selected as the scapegoat because patsy Canada was the only country that would take it.

Yes, the days that followed Johnson's positive test were hard. Our biggest hero--the guy that took down the arrogant Carl Lewis--was exposed as a cheat. We didn't want to believe it. We wanted his name to be cleared (something else that Brunt correctly nails in the linked article--he gives a back slap to every hack that has written about Canadians allegedly turning the Great Canadian Hero into a disgraced Jamaican sprinter in the days that followed the positive test--*cough Rosie Dimanno *cough*. It didn't happen. Quite the opposite, actually).

Again, they were all dirty. Every last one of them, including Lewis who had a positive stimulant test kept quiet by American authorities in the lead up to Seoul.

Every last one of them.

Ben did what he said he was going to do that day. When the gun go off, the race be over. Except we've never let the race end. It continues to live on in our collective, misguided Canadian guilt.

Ben was dirty. There is no doubt. But he was also the fastest man alive on that day and he ran a race that was as good as any ever run up to this past summer in China. The 20 years that have followed the race have not been memorable for Johnson. But, those 9.79 seconds...

Man, they were great, weren't they?


Mike said...

Firstly agreed, Stephen Brunt is one amazing writer! That was a lot of fun to read, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Secondly it is sad that this has changed the sport as a whole, that the moment after Bolt smashed the record I turned to my buddy and said "oh yeah that guy's juiced!", and that many got off while Ben was made the patsy. But I still must agree with you Duane that was a great race! I was real young but I still remember it, almost as vividly as Donovan Bailey's triumphant win.

It is too bad that Johnson has had his name dragged thru the mud these past 20 years, he didn't deserve treatment that bad for what he had done.

Anonymous said...

You know, I'm sure Neate would agree that it's time someone put Ben Johnson in a commercial that poked fun at his infamy. If it's amateurishly done, so much the better.

Tim said...

In a very strange way the whole Ben Johnson saga reminds me of a current issue where Canadians are allowed to carry the cross for the rest of the world. That's right, I know you all said... The Environment. In Canada we fret away our time due to the Suzukis of the world, while the USA throws everything into the garbage and laughs at us. We worried and self-flagellated over the Johnson issue, while the US just changed brands on the syringes. That 9.79 was a great experience no matter what. The other unspoken fallout from the BJ saga was the emergence of a young Gino Reda, yikes!