Back in Seoul, Johnson hopes for 'new chance'

Wed Sep 25, 2013 2:49pm EDT
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By Peter Rutherford

SEOUL (Reuters) - Cheat. Disgrace. Canada's shame: Ben Johnson has been called all these things and more in the last 25 years.

Few athletes evoke the same depth of disdain as Johnson, the Canadian sprinter whose steroid-fuelled surge to gold at the 1988 Seoul Olympics opened the world's eyes to the menace of doping.

Twenty-five years to the day since he blasted down lane six of Seoul's Olympic Stadium, leaving arch-enemy Carl Lewis wide-eyed in his wake, Johnson returned to the South Korean capital on Tuesday with a warning for the next generation of athletes: stay clear of performance-enhancing drugs.

Now 51 and, he says, "older and wiser", Johnson said no mother should have to watch her son or daughter experience what he has lived through for the last 25 years.

"I broke the rules and I got punished. Twenty-five years later I'm still being punished for something I did," he said.

"There's people who murder and rape people, go to jail and get out. I just break the rules in sport and I've been nailed to the cross."

Johnson was indeed crucified by the media.

After hailing him "Bentastic" following the scintillating victory, the media hounded Johnson out of Seoul, labeling him a "disgrace" and "Canada's shame".   Continued...

Sprinter Ben Johnson of Canada talks with his colleagues during his visit to the track at the Seoul Olympic Stadium in Seoul September 24, 2013. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won