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Lewis, Johnson Near Agreement on 3 Meetings

Times Staff Writer

Carl Lewis’ manager, Joe Douglas of the Santa Monica Track Club, said Wednesday that reports of Lewis and Canada’s Ben Johnson, world record-holder in the 100 meters, meeting in a series of three races this summer in Europe are premature. But he indicated that the possibility has a nice ring to it, like that of a cash-register.

“If what I’m hearing is true, we’d accept it in a minute,” Douglas said. “There are still certain things we’d want, but if a sponsor can be found, we could have an agreement quickly. There’s a lot of money being talked about.”

Johnson’s manager, Larry Heidebrecht, said he believes that a formal announcement is imminent.

“We haven’t finalized every little detail, but, in principle, we’ve committed to it,” he said.

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Raymond DeVries of Heritage Sports, a Williamsburg (Va.) marketing firm that bought rights to the series, said earlier Wednesday that unidentified Japanese sponsors have offered Lewis and Johnson close to $1 million to meet twice at 100 meters and once at 200 meters and that the only obstacle is determining a site for one of the races.

DeVries said Lewis and Johnson have agreed to meet at 100 meters June 27 near Paris and Aug. 17 in Zurich, Switzerland, but they have not settled on a site for the 200 meters in early August. He said Lewis favors Malmo, Sweden; Johnson favors Bologna, Italy, and Brussels may be a compromise choice.

As for how the money will be divided, DeVries said that will be revealed when an agreement is reached. Douglas said DeVries has until May 24 to complete the deal.

“All of this is in the hopper, but nothing is concrete,” he said. “We haven’t signed anything yet.”

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Lewis and Johnson have not met since the final of the 100 meters last August in the World Championships at Rome, where Johnson won in a world-record time of 9.83 seconds. Lewis, finishing second, tied the previous record of 9.93.

A Swedish newspaper reported afterward that Johnson had false-started. To avoid such speculation in this series, Douglas said, he has demanded photographs that will indicate the runners’ positions at the start.

“We want the whole world to see that the start is fair,” he said.

Douglas said he has also demanded that the runners be tested for drugs three weeks before each of the 100-meter races and immediately after all three races.

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Lewis said during the World Championships that he suspected many competitors were using performance-enhancing drugs, such as anabolic steroids. He did not mention names.

“There’s nothing there that creates any problems,” Heidebrecht said. “There’s nothing Ben has to prove.”

Promoters of the meets involved are responsible for filling the fields for the races with five or six other runners, DeVries said.

“But they will only be in the race for 30 or 40 meters,” he said. “Ben and Carl are too fast.”

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