1988 Doping Scandal Eerily Reminiscent of ’16 Russian Doping

This week’s 30 for 30 reaction wraps up the Olympics theme and I think I saved the best film for last. This week I watched the 30 for 30 9.79* which focuses on the 100m dash in the 1988 Olympics, which is fitting since this week is Track & Field’s week to shine in Rio during the games.

So the official recap of the documentary is: “Within 48 hours of winning the 100-meter men’s final at the 1988 Seoul Games, Ben Johnson tested positive for steroids — and scandal reigned.”

As the recap states, Ben Johnson of Canada who won the 100-meter final in ’88 was stripped of his medal within 48 hours after testing positive. It set off a huge investigation into the program Johnson was apart of and every Canadian athlete that came forward and testified was given a two year ban. The shocking part is the all but probably three athletes of the eight that ran in the final tested positive for drugs at some point following the games.

Following Johnson losing his medal those that came in 2, 3, and 4th were then moved up meaning Carl Lewis of the United States won the Gold Medal, Linford Christie of Great Britain won the Silver, and Calvin Smith of the United States won Bronze. Smith says in the doc that the committee should have done the right thing and had another ceremony and I completely agree with him. The IOC should have held another medal ceremony to give the athletes that had won the right way the recognition they deserve.

Calvin Smith is the only athlete among the top five finishers to not have been tainted by a drug scandal, according to a Reuters article that came out in September of 2013. That is true because Lewis had actually tested positive earlier but was able to get away with it by claiming he was ‘unaware he was taking a banned substance.’

I think that the most important part of the documentary was that almost everyone knew which athletes were taking performance enhancing drugs. Athletes knew that if they wanted to play on an even playing field, they would have to start taking drugs and it’s understandable if you think about it. How can you beat someone that is performing at their utmost best with chemicals and you’re just running on pure raw talent?

Several times throughout the film, I kept thinking about the Russian athletes that were banned following a large scale government doping scandal. The athletes couldn’t win on their natural talent so in order to put themselves in the best position possible to win, which meant taking drugs. While understandable in some weird way, is in no way excusable.

It’s insane to see the scandal of the 1988 Olympic Games repeating again in 2016. So if you want to make sense of the Russian doping scandal watching 9.79* it will make so much sense.

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