Wednesday, September 25, 2013

KAIST catches Big Ben

The 1988 Seoul Olympics

Part 1:  The Seoul Olympics, 25 years later
Part 2:  The 1988 Olympics and Korean fears of AIDS
Part 3: Americans and bad first impressions
Part 4: Reptilian Style: The 'live-or-die general war' against Hollywood
Part 5: An attack in a boxing ring
Part 6: Media responses to the boxing ring incident
Part 7: No more lion: US swimmers' 'prank' becomes 'diplomatic incident'

Part 8: KAIST catches Big Ben

Apparently Ben Johnson was in Seoul yesterday for the 25th anniversary of the infamous 100 meter final at the Seoul Olympics:
Seoul – Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson returned Tuesday to Seoul's Olympic Stadium – 25 years to the day after the steroid-assisted 100m final victory that destroyed his career and reputation.

The runner revisited the site of his stunning triumph and downfall to bring an anti-doping message for a sport still struggling to rid itself of banned substance use.

“It feels good to be back,” Johnson told AFP as he stepped out onto the track where, at 1:30 pm on September 24, 1988, he lined up for a 100m final that would become known as the “dirtiest race in history”.

“This is where history was made,” Johnson said. “Some might call it bad history, but I don't see it that way,” he added.

First out of the blocks in the final, Johnson destroyed a field that included his hated rival Carl Lewis and stormed to victory in a world record time of 9.79sec.

Three days later he was stripped of his medal, his time and ultimately his career after it was announced that he had tested positive for stanozolol, a banned anabolic steroid.

Six of the eight finalists would eventually be implicated in doping scandals, including Lewis, who it was later revealed had tested positive for stimulants at the US Olympic trials.

Johnson, 51, has admitted to years of steroid use, but still feels he was unfairly picked out for vilification at a time of widespread drug use in athletics.
Here is NBC footage of the race and the lead-up to it:

Here is a documentary by Daniel Gordon (best known for his documentaries about North Korea) about the race and the widespread doping in sports at the time:

Korea Witness notes that "Big Ben was spotted later that night celebrating on the dance floor in a white suit at J J Mahoney's in the Grand Hyatt, signing autographs from 'the fastest man alive.'" That would be the same bar where the swimmers stole the lion mask less than 24 hours earlier. By late Sunday night, according to Korea Witness, it was known that someone - the lab didn't know who - had tested positive for steroids. A tip to the Chosun Ilbo frpm the lab led someone at that paper to tip off a reporter from AFP, who called the head of the IOC's medical commission at his hotel, who confirmed it was Johnson before unplugging his phone for the night, giving AFP quite the scoop. By Tuesday Johnson was on his way back to Canada, as this September 28 Korea Herald article describes:

That same edition of the paper also had the following article:
Ben Johnson caught by advanced technology

Ben Johnson, stripped of his 100 meters Olympic crown for drug taking, was caught by the most sophisticated anti-doping technology employed at an international sports event.

Spurred on by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) war against drugs, the south Korean Games organizers recruited the country’s top scientists to plan the 1988 campaign.

Senior staff from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), one of the most respected bodies of its kind in Asia, were asked to ensure that the doping controls for the Seoul Games would be foolproof.

As a practice run, the KAIST scientists were able to apply their technology to the 1986 Asian Games in Seoul. It was the first time that strict drug-testing had been used at an Asian Games.

During the Olympics, organizing committee officials have been running the doping control stations at each sports venue and submitting urine samples to KAIST scientists.

Johnson, who was tested positive for an anabolic steroid following his world record-breaking victory in Saturday’s Olympic 100 meters final, spent two and a half hours at the control center before producing a urine specimen.

KAIST officials said they were investigating whether the delay was significant. At the time, Johnson said he had difficulty producing a sample because he had urinated immediately prior to the race.

Two new doping classes – diuretics and beta blockers – were added to the IOC’s list of banned substances for the Seoul Games. (Reuter)
Here are a few photos of the testing center where Korean technology caught foreign cheats (from volume 1 part 3 of the massive downloadable official report of the 88 Olympics written by the Korean Olympic Organizing Committee, courtesy of Roboseyo):

"Dope analyzing equipment at the Doping Control Center."

"Samples collected following set procedures for dope testing."

"A spectograph's electronic display monitor."

Johnson testing positive and being stripped of his gold medal shocked Canadians. A UPI article titled “Big Ben’s disgrace hits Canada’s sore spot” points at US-Canada relations and says that “Many Canadians are acutely aware that much of the world sees no difference between Canadians and Americans.”
"What's so shattering" about Johnson being stripped of his 100-meter gold medal at the Seoul Olympics, the Canadian said, is that it tends to confirm this judgement.

He cited television interviews with south Koreans who said, "'It's just what we'd expect from Americans.' They didn’t even distinguish between Canadians and Americans."
Well, the media certainly did. Johnson's 'drug taking' was inserted into the list of others, such as two Bulgarian weightlifters, who were caught and chided for their poor sportsmanship and regretful actions. Had he been American, the media would have certainly singled him out as yet another example of American perfidy, much along the lines 'It's just what we'd expect from Americans.'

This photo of Johnson at Kimpo Airport appeared in the Korea Herald:

It was used as the basis of an illustration affixed to a UPI article in the Korea Herald on October 1 about Koreans and garlic titled "Korea’s best beloved bulb smells sweetly of success" (love the alliteration).

You have to love the pure Korean lass in a hanbok throwing away corrupt foreigner's drugs and offering him a traditional, healthy, Korean stamina booster.

As for the article, do read it - it has some amusing passages, and I'm surprised the  - especially at that time - the Herald didn't take offense:


King Baeksu said...

Uncle Ben? Sounds American to me!

K said...

'His redolent backseat.'

- Oh lord, please don't remind me.

Ben said...

This kind of post is just what I'd expect from a damn American.

matt said...