9.79*: A Look at Maybe the Most Unforgettable Ten Seconds in Olympic History
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"If you don't take it, you won't make it."
At first, that might sound like an inspirational statement. But in reality, that summed up the attitudes many people had toward performance enhancing drugs.
Thus, that quote was perfect to open 9.79*, ESPN"s latest documentary in its 30 for 30 series. The piece - directed by Daniel Gordon - examined one of the most unforgettable and controversial events in Olympic history: the men's 100-meter dash final at the 1988 Olympics.
As you probably know, Canadian Ben Johnson produced one of the most breathtaking 100-meter runs in history to win the gold, only to be stripped of the medal shortly thereafter for testing positive for steroids. His American rival Carl Lewis was awarded the gold, making him a repeat gold medalist in the 100.
But that race in Seoul has intrigued and fascinated people ever since that early morning when Johnson was stripped of his gold.
Like any good documentary, 9.79* reveals facts that people probably were unaware of (including information about a bizarre way Johnson might have injected steroids).
As he should have, Gordon devoted a lot of time to epidemic of steroids of facts, and the documentary revealed that at the 1984 Olympics, information about positive drugs were "lost" or shredded.
But perhaps more important for those watching the documentary who are only casual track fans was the highlights of a 1985 race in Zurich between Lewis and Johnson. When the Canadian won, it signaled a changing a guard in the 100 and Johnson went on the dominate the event for the next several years.
9.79* also did a great job of incorporating the other participants in the 100-meter dash in Seoul. At first, I wondered why Gordon would feature the other runners in the beginning of the piece, but the other six participants did an outstanding job of describing the atmosphere at the Olympic Stadium prior to gun going off.
Despite feeling at times that I wanted 9.79* to get the race in Seoul, Gordon awed me with the way he described the build up to Seoul and even the ironic twist that several other participants in the race have had issues with performance enhancing drugs.
Carl Lewis actually mentioned he doesn't want to remember that race at all. Whether that's really the case or not, that race in Seoul has a fascinating backstory that might shock people.
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