1988 Olympics Scandal: ESPN '30 for 30' Sheds Light on Epic PED Scandal

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1988 Olympics Scandal: ESPN '30 for 30' Sheds Light on Epic PED Scandal
Source: Vice.com

By now, we're well aware of the fact that steroid scandals can rock the world. They can ruin a game, a season, or, at the risk of sounding melodramatic, a life.

And even though these scandals have truly hit a crescendo over the last few years, one of the biggest ever—one that puts Barry Bonds to shame—happened over 20 years ago.

On Tuesday, ESPN will air its latest 30 for 30 documentary, entitled 9.79*. It explores the 1988 Olympics scandal in which Canadian Ben Johnson and American Carl Lewis engaged in a showdown in the men's 100-meter final in Seoul.

Johnson won, shattering the world record with a time of 9.79 seconds, but his elation was short-lived: Only a couple of days later, he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug. With one positive test, he lost everything—his gold medal, his world record, his pride, his reputation.

The International Olympic Committee then awarded the gold medal to Lewis, who ran the 100 in a far-less-impressive 9.92 seconds, according to Yahoo! Sports' Phil Watson.

But Johnson wasn't the only Olympian who tested positive for a PED that year; the Seoul Olympics were marred by steroid scandals. According to Watson, two gold-medal-winning weightlifters from Bulgaria tested positive as well. So did five other competitors in the men's 100-meter sprint. Even Lewis had tested positive for PEDs at the Olympic Trials.

But Johnson's positive test was the one that hurt the most.

In that 100-meter sprint, Johnson gave the world what was one of its greatest Olympic moments at the time. Even the fans on Team Lewis couldn't avoid getting caught up in the excitement. It all went downhill when Johnson was revealed as a cheater, a liar, a scammer.

Imagine what it would be like if Michael Phelps tested positive for steroids just a day or two after he beat Ryan Lochte in the 200-meter IM in London, a race that earned him his 16th gold medal.

Johnson's victory was comparable to that. Maybe it didn't earn him double digits in gold, but his was a performance so dominant and so unparalleled that it brought about the same type of befuddled, shocked amazement.

And just 48 hours later, it all came crashing down. The reverie was shattered.

Interestingly enough, in the press conference immediately following his victory, Johnson told reporters, "A gold medal—that's something no one can take away from you," according to CNN.com. Clearly, he was wrong.

Back then, steroids were the only thing that could sully a gold-medal victory and an incredible performance that was capable of exciting the whole world.

Surprisingly, not a lot has changed in the last 24 years.

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