SPEED TRAP by Charlie Francis


Inside the Biggest Scandal in Olympic History
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Canadian track coach Francis offers a decidedly defensive version of events surrounding the 1988 Seoul Olympics, when his star sprinter, Ben Johnson, was stripped of his 100-meter gold medal. Johnson's coach for 12 years, Francis was integral to the resurgence of the Canadian team, which had not won an Olympic gold medal on the track since 1928. Under Francis's tutelage, Johnson, Angella Issajenko, and Desai Williams had achieved international standing. Here, Francis acknowledges the planned, long-term use of proscribed, "performance enhancing" drugs. With the widespread, effective use of steroids in amateur athletics, he writes, the choice had become: "Break the rules or lose." Johnson's "drug protocol," supervised by Dr. Jamie Astaphan, called for the apparently undetectable drug furazabol. "I would never," Francis notes, "have allowed my sprinters to use an injectable known to the IOC." He was "shocked" to learn that Johnson's urine sample showed stanozolol, an anabolic steroid he'd never heard of. In descending order of probability, Francis claims that Johnson tested positive because: someone sabotaged him (an unknown man in a blue sweatsuit had been lurking about the testing area); Johnson had been "freelancing," taking additional drugs without his coach's knowledge; Dr. Astaphan had blundered in setting the drug protocol; stanozolol stored in the fat tissue had "spurted" into his system; lab technology had greatly improved. The end result is the same: the gold medal was taken away, and three of Johnson's world records, and one of Issajenko's, were retroactively erased. Warranted or not, Francis feels singled out and victimized by "a sport steeped in hypocrisy." Well-written with the aid of investigative reporter Coplon (Rolling Stone, etc.), this candid, revealing account offers no apologies, but is surfeit with rationalizations.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 312-04877-7
Page count: 306pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
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