Track star Carl Lewis said Thursday that Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson could not have made the Canadian Olympic team without the help of anabolic steroids and called for a stepped-up war against use of the performance-enhancing drugs.
Lewis was awarded the 100-meter gold medal in the 1988 Olympics after Johnson, who had run the distance in a world-record time of 9.79 seconds, was disqualified when he tested positive for steroid use. Lewis made his remarks in testimony at a hearing of a House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime.
“Ben Johnson would not have been in the finals or even on the Olympic team” if he had not been taking steroids, Lewis said.
The subcommittee is considering legislation to bar mail and other advertising of steroids. The measure would reinforce legislation passed last year, making it a federal crime to prescribe steroids without a prescription.
Lewis estimated that five to 10 medals were won in the Seoul Games because of steroid use. Responding to a question by Rep. Bill McCollum (R-Fla.), Lewis did not name the other steroid users he believed won track and field medals but said, “To add to that, some of them were gold medalists, definitely.”
Meanwhile, Johnson’s doctor said that steroid use is rampant throughout all sports and asked that the banned drugs be legalized.
“Every athlete in Seoul was on them,” Dr. Jamie Astaphan said in an interview from his home on St. Kitts in the Caribbean. “If there was any athlete not on them, they were probably from Sri Lanka or Timbuktu or some other God-forsaken place.”