What it’s about: In 1988, Canadian 100m sprinter and genetic marvel Ben Johnson was the fastest man in the world. He owned rival Carl Lewis during the season and won Olympic gold by running a record-shattering 9.79 seconds. But as quickly as Johnson ascended to the top of his sport, his reputation came crashing down. He was found guilty of using steroids days after the race in Seoul, stripped of his medal, and eventually banned from competition for life after another failed test in 1993. Lewis was awarded gold, and no one would eclipse Johnson's tainted 9.79 until 1999.
What it's really about: The lengths people will go to win. Johnson believes a celebratory drink was spiked by Lewis's friend (who doesn't deny it in the film) prior to the '88 drug test. But Johnson also admits to doping, and knows he wasn't the only one. Lewis, who eventually won nine Olympic gold medals, was caught with three drugs in his system during the Trials but was cleared to race in Seoul, and of the top five finishers in the 100m Olympic event that year, only one never failed a drug test. When Dr. Don Catlin of the UCLA Olympic Lab went back to retest hundreds of samples from the 1984 Olympics with modern methods, he was so overwhelmed by additional drugs he found that he stopped. "Better not to do this," he said. So Carl Lewis lives on as an icon of American sports. Ben Johnson exists as a cautionary tale.Back to top