Ben Johnson Steroid Inquiry : Issajenko Does Not Rule Out Sabotage
Despite suggestions to the contrary Wednesday by Ben Johnson’s attorney, Canadian sprinter Angella Taylor Issajenko reiterated her previous testimony that Johnson was aware he had used anabolic steroids and other banned substances.
But she said that Johnson’s positive test for a steroid, stanozolol, after he had won the 100 meters in the 1988 Olympic Games still confuses her because she does not believe that he used that particular drug within a year of competing in Seoul. Doctors say that stanozolol normally clears the system within two weeks.
Although she previously had told the Canadian government’s commission of inquiry into drug use by athletes that she no longer believes Johnson was sabotaged, she testified Wednesday that she thinks it was scientifically possible for Waldemar Matuszewski, the Canadian Olympic track team’s physical therapist, to have purposely rubbed stanozolol into Johnson’s system during a massage in Seoul.
The Polish-born Matuszewski, known as Magic Hands to the athletes he treated, worked extensively with Johnson, Issajenko and other athletes coached by Charlie Francis for more than two years before the 1988 Olympics.
Under questioning by Ed Futerman, Johnson’s attorney, Issajenko said that Francis, who testified last week that he could not rule out Matuszewski as a possible saboteur, suggested a possible motive in a telephone conversation with her husband, Tony Issajenko, a few days after returning from Seoul last October.
“My husband said Charlie felt it was most likely Waldemar because he had a tendency to bother Charlie and the other athletes for money from time to time,” she said.
Elaborating later in response to a question by Futerman about whether Johnson trusted Matuszewski, Issajenko recalled a meeting among Francis’ athletes at a training camp last summer in Verona, Italy. She said that Matuszewski had wanted 5% to 10% of the athletes’ earnings. They rejected his demand.
“We all agreed we didn’t like that characteristic in Waldemar,” she said. “If we gave 10% to everyone who felt he deserved something, we wouldn’t have had any money left.”
Matuszewski will not comment until he is called by the commission to testify, his attorney said.
Futerman was the 10th attorney Issajenko faced Wednesday, her third and final full day of testimony. She will return to the witness stand briefly today, followed by her husband, a former sprinter who also was coached by Francis.
The most dramatic moment Wednesday occurred not during testimony but when Issajenko’s rival of almost a decade, Canadian sprinter Angela Bailey, entered the hearing room and sat down near the back. During a brief pause, Issajenko and Bailey stared at each other, not averting their eyes until the questioning resumed.
Afterward, outside the hearing room, Bailey said that she will ask the commission for an opportunity to testify. Often a runner-up to Issajenko in the 100 and 200 meters at the Canadian national championships, Bailey publicly accused Issajenko of drug use on several occasions. Issajenko testified that she began using steroids in 1979.
“I’m tired of hearing from dirty athletes,” Bailey said.
She said that she told the Canadian national coach, Gerard Mach, and other officials about her suspicions in 1983.
“They told me to keep my mouth shut,” she said.
Earlier Wednesday, Issajenko said that she had received death threats from unidentified telephone callers who did not want her to testify about Johnson’s drug use.
In Seoul, she had told reporters that Johnson did not use drugs.
“When an athlete is caught, that’s the standard procedure,” she said. “You deny, you deny, you deny. If the inquiry hadn’t been called, we’d be denying to this day. But once the inquiry was called, I knew we’d have to come out with the truth. It was over.”
Asked during cross-examination by Futerman whether it was possible that Johnson did not know that he was using steroids, she said, “No, sir.”
“OK,” he said. “That’s your opinion.”