Track Group Strips Johnson of World Records : His 100-Meter, 60-Meter Marks Erased Because He Admitted Using Steroids
Ben Johnson’s name will be erased from track’s record books because of drugs that, officially, were not there.
The action came on a chaotic vote by the sport’s ruling body that, officially, was not taken.
The International Amateur Athletic Federation agreed Tuesday to strip Johnson of his world records in the 100 meters and indoor 60 meters because of his confession that he used steroids from 1981 on.
The marks will go to two Americans -- Carl Lewis in the 100, his first individual world record, and Lee McRae in the 60.
Johnson, who lost his Olympic gold medal in the 100 last year after testing positive for steroids, also will lose his world indoor and outdoor championships from 1987 and various other world, regional and national titles and medals, the IAAF said. Final action on those will be taken in several months.
No ballot figures were available for the stripping measure, which took 3 1/2 hours of debate and two mysterious votes to resolve. It was a raucous meeting that included charges of racism and ended with the opposition leader, Amadeo Francis, stalking out of the hall in anger.
“It is a travesty of justice,” Francis, a member of the IAAF’s policy making council from Puerto Rico, said.
The record changes take effect when the IAAF issues its annual world-records list Jan. 1, 1990. But officials and fellow athletes said Johnson had been stripped of much more.
“Ultimately, he’s lost everything,” Edwin Moses, the two-time Olympic hurdles champion from the United States, said. “Everyone knows it.”
Asked if titles and medals also would fall, John Holt, the federation’s general secretary, said the IAAF Council, its policy board, would “discuss the next logical step” at its next meeting this winter.
Officially, the IAAF voted to take away world records from any athlete who admits under oath or in writing to drug use.
Johnson, however, is the only record-holder in that position, having testified at a Canadian government inquiry last June that he starting using drugs in 1981 and was taking massive doses in 1987, when he set the world records.
Other athletes, including American javelin thrower Dianne Williams and Canadian hurdlers Mark McKoy and Anjela Issajenko, also have admitted drug use in sworn testimony and face the loss of various titles and medals.
That Canadian hearing was called after Johnson tested positive for steroids at the Olympics last summer and was stripped of his gold medal and world-record time of 9.79 seconds. He passed doping tests after setting the remaining world records of 9.83 second for the 100 at the world championships in Rome in August 1987 and 6.41 seconds in the 60 at the world indoor championships in Indianapolis that February.
When the new lists come out, Carl Lewis of the United States will have the 100-meter record at 9.92 seconds, while countryman Lee McRae will have the 60-meter mark at 6.50.
The world-record stripping was part of a far-reaching anti-drug program adopted by the IAAF, which also included worldwide out-of-competition doping tests and the concept that one country can challenge the drug status of another’s athletes.
Those parts passed with no negative debate. Speaker after speaker pledged support for ridding track and field of drugs.
But taking away records on an athlete’s confession was another story.
Arne Ljungqvist, the head of the IAAF’s medical committee, said admissions such as Johnson’s were as good as positive urine samples for finding drug cheats.
“The real solution will be a change of attitude,” Ljungqvist said. “If we continue and recognize results achieved by confessed drug takers, we can never change the attitude. . . . It’s a dirty area, a back-yard area, but we must get rid of it.”
Primo Nebiolo, the IAAF president who controlled the meeting with an iron hand, said the sport had to adopt the revolutionary rule for its own protection.
“We started this fight and we must keep in the vanguard of people fighting against doping,” he said. “These are not proposals against anybody but proposals to reinforce our fight, to reinforce our image.”
At least three dozen delegates took the floor, with a large percentage--led by Johnson’s home of Canada and his native Caribbean--speaking out strongly against stripping.
“What we are trying to do is to use one black individual to show the world we mean business,” said Vera Bird, from Antiqua. “We know there are others in the same situation. How can we have two standards?”
Francis said all in the room were there because of their love of track. “It is like motherhood and apple pie,” he said.
But Francis added, “I have a conscience,” and said it would be wrong to strip Johnson because of the sprinter’s statements under oath at the Canadian inquiry.
“We may effectively be putting a muzzle on the mouths of athletes who want to speak out about what is going on in the training rooms, in the locker rooms and on the little islands,” he said. The last reference was to Johnson’s trips to St. Kitts in early 1988, where he got steroid treatment for muscle injuries.
Nebiolo proposed an amendment decreasing the time that can elapse between drug offense and admission from six to three years and called for a vote that the IAAF said was on the entire drug package. There was desultory applause and Nebiolo declared that the package was adopted.
An IAAF statement said the package had been accepted by acclamation.
Some delegates were outraged, saying they didn’t know a vote was even being taken.
“That was democracy--didn’t you see it?” said Cecil Smith, head of the Ontario Track and Field Assn. “They must have had a clap-o-meter.”
After the break, the arguments continued. Bird called for a formal vote, “asking for some respect,” but Nebiolo tried to put it off.
“I made a proposal and the answer was positive,” he said. “We were not different people then. We were all together.”
Finally Britain’s Robert Stinson, the federation’s honorary treasurer, commandeered the microphone and called for three formal votes--one on all drug matters except the record-stripping, one on the statute of limitations and one on the record stripping itself.
The first part passed unanimously in the show of hands. The second saw 99 delegates vote to restore the doping-confession gap to six years. There was no final vote on stripping records but Stinson said the outcome by that time had been assured.
“If you voted for six-year retroactivity, you voted for the whole thing,” he said.
As the meeting moved to other business, Francis stormed off the stage and out of the room, waving his hand in disgust in Nebiolo’s direction.
“We have been under criticism for a long time, unjustly so, and we have to get tough,” Francis said. “But I think he could have gotten what he wanted by following more normal parliamentary procedures.”
Moses said the issue “was dealing with a political position,” but one that was necessary to take.
“We can’t deny that a problem exists,” he said. “We have to convince young kids they don’t have to load up on steroids to win.”
Asked if there was a suspicion that other world record-holders were on drugs at the time they set their marks, Moses replied: “Suspect, yes, but you can’t prove it. And that’s the big issue.”