In the long history of the Summer Olympics, there has never been controversy quite like what emerged from the 1988 Seoul 100 meter men’s final.
The starting block brought together Carl Lewis (USA) and Ben Johnson (Canada) who had a reputation for being fierce competitors. Lewis was known as a savvy careerist who became an American hero at the previous Los Angeles Olympics. Johnson was his chief rival, considered an underdog due to his recovery from a pulled hamstring. But in less than 10 seconds, Johnson edged out in front of Lewis to win the Seoul race. But that wasn’t the end; the controversy was only getting started.
Three days later, in a reversal of fortune, the Olympic committee announced that Johnson had failed a drug test, losing the gold medal to Lewis in disgrace. But as time has gone on, a mystery still shrouds the race. Was Johnson exceptional in his drug usage or merely the fall guy for a widespread practice?
Six of the eight finalists in the 1988 race have since been implicated for drugs, with many still deny any wrongdoing. 9.79* digs into the controversy, conducting extensive interviews with Lewis and Johnson as well as their competitors, coaches, and Olympic insiders. Filmmaker Daniel Gordon uncovers layers of intrigue, deception, and favoritism that will change your perception of the way this story has previously been told.
Today, the problem of drugs in sport runs rampant throughout professional and amateur competitions. As drug-testing gets more sophisticated, so do means of evading it. This compelling story forces us to question what we expect from our athletes as they pursue records in the name of national pride.