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Ben--Steroids and All--Could Make a New Start in U.S.

Yo, Ben Johnson, come on back.

We’re not quite through with you here, my man. You left town in such a rush that we didn’t have time to properly honor you.

You gave back your gold medal in a private meeting in a hotel room. Tacky. What folks here had planned was a special ceremony in the big stadium.

You would mount a platform wearing all black (pending waivers from Johnny Cash and Gary Player). While a band played the Canadian national anthem backward, the Canadian flag would be lowered and you would stomp on it. Then an official of the International Olympic Committee would rip the medal off your neck and boot you in the butt.

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Also, they wanted you here in person for the IOC appeal to the Canadian Olympic Committee to have your lifetime ban extended. Just in case you die and try to sneak back as a weightlifter in your next life.

Other than that steroid stuff, how’s everything going with you?

I understand you might be looking for work. You probably have an agent already, but may I make a suggestion?

Can you catch a football? Shoot a jump shot? Hit a slider?

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If so, we may have an opening in America for a new superstar, pick your sport. Your steroid use shouldn’t be a problem.

Not that any American athlete would stoop to using steroids to enhance his or her performance. When was the last time anyone in the National Football League, National Basketball Assn. or major league baseball--or Canadian Football League, for that matter--tested positive for steroids and was thrown out of the sport for even one game, let alone one lifetime?

That’s right, Ben, it never has happened. I guess that’s because we don’t need no steroids. We have suddenly developed an entire sub-species of 350-pound football lineman by convincing kids they must eat their vegetables.

For more than a decade, the Olympics have considered steroids a danger to the event’s integrity, a subversion of the Olympian ideals of fair play.

In America, steroids are considered as subversive as hot dogs and beer.

In other words, Ben, I think (wink-wink) you might be able to beat the testing down in the USA, for those sports that even make a pretense of weeding out steroid abusers.

You might even be an instant hero, like Brian Bosworth. Here’s a guy who tested positive for steroids while he was an amateur football player.

How did we punish him? We started by making him sit out one college game, thus enhancing his rebel image and boosting his marketing appeal.

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Then we gave him his weight in gold. I read where he is making $3.6 million a year to play NFL football, and expects to earn $3 million in endorsements next year.

He wrote a book, currently on the best-seller list, in which he admits to taking steroids. Seems kind of proud of it, in fact.

Boz is a hero. He does TV commercials and gets tons of mail from adoring fans. He is a regular Elvis Presley.

The Boz is even close to signing a movie deal. His agent told USA Today: “You’ve seen Clint Eastwood riding into those spaghetti Western towns, taking care of rustlers. Brian would drive his Maserati into Malibu and take care of the dope dealers. He’d be the Boz.”

Ben, I think I could get you a contract to star opposite Brian. Forget Malibu. The Boz would drive his Maserati into Seoul and take care of Ben Johnson, one-man international steroid cartel.

Final scene: Boz busts in on you, you’re holding a steroid pill and a glass of water.

Boz: “Go ahead, Big Ben. Make my day.”

I don’t know if Bosworth still does steroids. I don’t think anyone much cares.

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When USC lineman Dave Cadigan was drafted by the Jets, he not only admitted he had used steroids in college, he said he was going to keep on using them in pro ball, by gum, if that’s what it takes. He wants to be all that he can be.

USC was not forced to forfeit any games. And what did the NFL do to Cadigan? Blackball him? Last seen, Dave, big as a house, had apologized and was playing for the Jets.

Ben, if you play American football and you do happen to test positive for steroids, know what will happen to you?

If it’s your second offense, you’ll be forced to miss a month of training camp. You will be sentenced to either attend a steroid-abuse clinic or to play 18 holes of golf with Brian Bosworth, Lawrence Taylor or Elizabeth Taylor.

Isn’t it funny, Ben? In pro sports, steroids are no more frowned upon than chewing tobacco. In the Olympics, they are the ultimate sin.

I’m not saying the Olympics are too tough on guys like you. I think they should upgrade their testing, in fact, because it’s my expert suspicion that hundreds of steroid abusers slipped through the net.

What can be done? The IOC should appeal to the nationalistic competitive spirit of Olympian countries. They should award a country one gold medal for each steroid-using athlete it can turn up in pre-Olympic testing.

I think the NFL, NBA and major league baseball should wake up to steroids, which are easily the No. 1 drug menace in terms of harm to player health and the concept of fair play. Cocaine is a distant second.

And I think the world should lighten up on you, Ben. You did what you had to do to win. You did what thousands of other athletes, certainly more than a few Olympians, are doing every day to survive and excel in big-time athletics.

We’ll take your gold medal back, big guy, thank you very much. But we’ll hold off for now on that pound of flesh.


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