Canadian sprinter Johnson sues ex-lawyer: report

Fri Aug 15, 2008 12:45pm EDT
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TORONTO (Reuters) - Disgraced Olympic sprinter Ben Johnson has filed a C$37 million ($34.9 million) lawsuit in Canada against the estate of his former lawyer for allegedly stealing his wealth and failing to protect future earnings, the Toronto Star newspaper reported on Friday.

Johnson claims the late Ed Futerman made unauthorized payments from his trust account to pay bills and 20 per cent commissions to a hairdresser who was recruited by the lawyer to act as the sprinter's sports agent, the Star reported.

The suit also claims Futerman ought to have known that Johnson was incapable of understanding complex legal documents since psychiatric experts hired by the lawyer -- and paid for by Johnson -- concluded in February 1989 that "there is overwhelming evidence that Mr. Johnson is intellectually retarded," the newspaper reported.

The allegations have not been proved in court.

Johnson enjoyed a high-profile career in the 1980s and made headlines for his world-record 100 meter win at the Seoul Olympic Games. However, days after the race, he tested positive for the banned steroid stanozolol and was stripped of his gold medal.

Lawyer Michael Kestenberg, whose client died this year, said Futerman's estate and insurers "will be fighting this vehemently. They do not believe there is any truth to any of the allegations."

The newspaper reported that when it contacted Johnson, he said he had been advised by his current lawyer not to comment.

($1=$1.06 Canadian)

(Reporting by Wojtek Dabrowski; editing by Rob Wilson)

<p>Ben Johnson, Canadian sprinter, at the presentation of his biography, co-written by his Croatian friend and coach, in Zagreb on December 3, 2002. REUTERS/Nikola Solic</p>