Connect with us
[the_ad id="89560"]

Bruce Dowbiggin

Ben Johnson: Can You Railroad A Guilty Man?

Published

13 minute read

The Incredible Life Of Ben Johnson: World’s Fastest Man by Mary Ormsby, Sutherland House, 286 pages

It’s a short list of sports events that Canadians can remember where they were when the story broke. Paul Henderson’s 1972 goal in the USSR Summit Series. The Gretzky Trade. Ben Johnson tests positive after winning the 1988 Olympics 100 metre gold.

It’s long been established that Johnson was guilty on the positive steroid charge. But many questions have lingered for Canadians. Why was Johnson the only one singled out when five other runners in that race have drugging histories? Why did Canadian officials abandon Johnson to his fate in Seoul?

Our friend Mary Ormsby, longtime former reporter at the Toronto Star,  has wondered the same things for years. So when Johnson asked her to cooperate on a book, she decided to conduct a cold-case investigation into a story that has flummoxed Canadians for decades. We spoke about The Incredible Life of Ben Johnson: World’s Fastest Man

Why is Ben Johnson still relevant to Canadians 35 years later:? I think, he still strikes a nerve with the Canadian consciousness. He took everybody on that 100-yard run with him in 1988. And then, of course, this historic, disqualification during the Seoul Olympics for his doping offence. That was seared in the Canadian mindset at the time, and I found over the decades that Canadians have never really forgotten about that moment.

People are still curious about him, and I think over time, people have become very much more aware and educated about the prevalence of doping in sport. We were quite naïve as Canadians, at least back in 1988. And we’ve learned a lot more since including that five of the other guys in that 100 metre final, became linked to doping infractions in some way. So it’s a wiser population that thinks that Ben is interesting, and they want to know what happened to him in the interim.

How did you get Ben to agree to the book: Actually, Ben said, “do you think there’s a book in this?” He’s the one who asked me to write it? And I said no, for a long time. Then I said, well, why not look into it after I left the Toronto Star?

What did you discover: The crux of the book is how is it possible to railroad a guilty man? Was he denied or deprived of due process at his hearing in Seoul? A lot of the people I talked to for the book, they all seem to say that Ben got screwed in Seoul. Meaning he wasn’t the only one using something at the time or of that generation or later. Only he was singled out. Now, that’s not to say, Ben is blameless. We all know he broke a rule, he willingly took steroids and he lied about it. He made it bad for himself. But again, I think people have learned to understand sport in a way that is much more cynical and much more educated, through, all the anti-doping news that continues to this very day almost.

That’s one of the questions I really want to explore in the book. So all this is to say it, it came to be at one point.

Why should people read the book?: The way to engage people was to really focus on what I would call the cold case aspect of the Ben Johnson story. And that is how was he represented at that very critical hearing that Monday night in Seoul when it was all or nothing trying to hold on to his gold medal. As I said, Ben is not blameless. We all know what he did. He lied about it. It took a $4 million inquiry and testimony under oath to get the truth out of him. “Yes, I did know what I was doing and yes, I did take steroids.” Then I try to weave the idea that there is an injustice, surrounding the mystique of Ben Johnson that Canadian officials didn’t go to the wall for him, as they should have. It was pretty much an open-and-shut case very quickly. But following the paper trail, you can see where evidence wasn’t looked at, the Canadian officials didn’t even look at his drug test. They just assumed that everything was correct and all the paperwork was absolutely topnotch. Then the IOC Medical Commission members dropped a second test on him that showed he was a longtime anabolic steroid user.

It was an unofficial test, and also no one took exception to the many conflicts of interest of the IOC doping panel that was actually hearing his appeal. They had many conflicts in my opinion. They developed the testing, they ran the testing, they supervised the testing. They were the prosecutor and the judge and the jury. And they were the ones who could recommend whether he be disqualified or not. So, the trick— and I hope I did it properly— was to get people involved in this idea that there was an injustice that happened. You can support someone’s right to a fair hearing and he was entitled to a fair hearing. That doesn’t mean you support or endorse the behaviour. Those are two separate matters.

How did Canadian officials drop the ball?: Ben made it trickier, because he, said yes, please have IOC VP Richard Pound represent me when that option was presented to him that night. Everybody was in total shock. Richard Pound, he stood to lose something too. He was one of the golden boys of the IOC movement. He was hoping to be in the running for next IOC president. From talking to IOC Medical Commission member Arne Ljundqvist after the fact, the panel weren’t very pleased to see him there running the show when, in their opinion, it should have been Canada’s chef de mission Caroline Anne Letheren. I asked Pound, why did you not look at his drug test? Why, did you not look at the supporting paperwork? And he said, you know, I didn’t want to be someone who got somebody off on a technicality. Perhaps, but if you’re fighting for your life, I would like my representatives to go to the wall for me whenever possible.

How was his late coach Charlie Francis responsible for this?:  He really did influence Ben and convince him— based on Charlie’s own research and knowledge and beliefs— that everybody at the highest level is using performance enhancing drugs. You know, that famous line, you don’t have to use, but you’re always going to be a metre behind. Ben thought about it for a week or two and said, yeah, let’s do it. Charlie was a huge influence on Ben moving forward. So much so that Ben would claim, when he got caught lying, that he lied to protect Charlie Francis. He didn’t want Charlie to be caught up in the big disaster. To this day he, he talks about Charlie with, with great love and affection. So that was a very strong bond. And Charlie Francis did take advantage of that. Ben was the one who was able to help fill Charlie’s ambition as a coach.

Why wasn’t Ben caught when he set the world record at the Rome 1987 World Track & Field Championships?: Amazingly, he said he wasn’t tested in Rome. In fact, he was in the doping control room, and Primo Nebbiolo’s bodyguard went in to get him (Nebbiolo was president of the World Track & Field Federation). He says, “The boss wants to see you at this horse track”. So he spirited Ben out of the doping control room. Ben went in a limousine to this horse-racing track where he met Primo’s friends and horse racing friends and some championship horse, and then he was eventually taken back to Rome to his hotel. Nobody ever bothered him about providing a urine sample after he set the world record. (Nebbiolo later erased Ben’s 1987 world record for embarrassing him with the incident.)

How Is Ben today?: I think Ben has been broken many times in his life about this, and he tried really hard to fight through it. It’s been a lonely fight. At different times, he surrounded himself with people who didn’t always have his best interests at heart (Muammar Ghaddafi) and he retains a bitterness about Seoul and what happened to him and why he was the only one. But there’s also a resilience there that I’m pretty impressed with, because in all that time he’s had to scramble to make a living. He is still hoping with this book and maybe with more time, he will be able to clear his name. He sees that at the end of the day. I don’t know. But what we do see, even just walking down the street in Toronto or down in Jamaica, people will still call out to him. “Hey, world’s fastest man” and give him the thumbs up. You know, what a great guy.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. His new book Deal With It: The Trades That Stunned The NHL And Changed hockey is now available on Amazon. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his previous book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via brucedowbigginbooks.ca.

BRUCE DOWBIGGIN Award-winning Author and Broadcaster Bruce Dowbiggin's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience . He is currently the editor and publisher of Not The Public Broadcaster website and is also a contributor to SiriusXM Canada Talks. His new book Cap In Hand was released in the fall of 2018. Bruce's career has included successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster for his work with CBC-TV, Mr. Dowbiggin is also the best-selling author of "Money Players" (finalist for the 2004 National Business Book Award) and two new books-- Ice Storm: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Vancouver Canucks Team Ever for Greystone Press and Grant Fuhr: Portrait of a Champion for Random House. His ground-breaking investigations into the life and times of Alan Eagleson led to his selection as the winner of the Gemini for Canada's top sportscaster in 1993 and again in 1996. This work earned him the reputation as one of Canada's top investigative journalists in any field. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013) where his incisive style and wit on sports media and business won him many readers.

Follow Author

Bruce Dowbiggin

The Buck Stops Nowhere: Biden / Trudeau & The Accountability Gap

Published on

It’s unlikely Donald Trump will have time or energy for a post-presidential TV encore. But were he to do so at the age of 85 he might call it You’re Not Fired! In this take on his Apprentice franchise, Trump brings on governments officials and employees who’ve never been fired despair egregious mistakes, many costing lives.

They compete to see which one made the most gargantuan mistake without ever taking responsibility. Bonus points are awarded for players who can say things like  “The buck stops here” with the most cloying insincerity as they keep their job. At the end of the episode Trump declares to the winner, “You get to keep your job forever. Better yet, we are giving you a raise.”

It’ll be a smash hit. Certainly he can talk from firsthand experience about government service being the gift that keeps on giving. To its employees and contractors. This past weekend, for instance, a complete cock-up by the Secret Service nearly cost Trump his life in front of a worldwide TV audience. As snipers tried desperately to put down a shooter, Secret Service folks heroically draped themselves over the president’s body. (At least those tall enough to shield Trump from incoming fire.)

The term heroically is key here. While the sunglasses/ walkie-talkie dudes risked their lives in service of the president, their superiors safely back in a DC office were cravenly insisting that they’d do better next time. In an NBC interview, Biden appointee Kim Cheatle claimed the mantle of “the buck stops here.” She promised transparency in finding out why her department had failed so many basic tasks of the raid to almost getting Trump’s head blown off.

What she didn’t do was resign in shame for almost getting the former and likely future POTUS killed. Nor was she asked to resign by her boss at Homeland Security, Antonio Mayorcas. Ditto the Big Boss, Joe Biden. Even when DEI appointee and Jill Biden chum Cheatle tried out a shameless meme about the sniper’s rooftop being unsafe (too severe a slope), no one asked for the keys to her office.

She held tight to her pension even when it was revealed her squad knew the shooter was around hours before the shots that wounded Trump and killed at least one other. That Trump was allowed to take the stage when the sniper’s parents were desperately calling police to find him. That her claim of local police screwing up was debunked. That the crew was undermanned while a more experienced crew worked a Jill Biden function.

Look, this is not to conduct a review of the protocols flubbed and the roofs abandoned. This is about accountability. To say that there is no glory without honour. And from Biden on down, honour has been MIA throughout the years of affirmative hiring and official bungling. They claim glory, but it’s a shattered chalice.

As just one example, DHS head Mayorcas still gets a seat at Joe’s cabinet table despite the total breakdown of border security. So does Kamala Harris, who was named “czar” for border security. Transport secretary Pete Buttiegieg has overseen fatal bridge collapses, train derailments and transit shutdowns without connecting it to his administration of the department.

The same absence of responsibility has ruled in the decade of Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government in Canada. While his father earned (and then wasted) some honour by facing down rock-throwing separatists in 1968, Justin has been Brave Sir Robin, high-tailing it to the rear at the first sign he might be asked to show some stones.

While his media toadies downplayed Ol’ Yellow Stain at the time of the Truckers Convoy, most now acknowledge that had he emerged from under his desk at the Rideau Cottage in the early days to confront the protesters the disaster might have been averted. Instead, Skippy sent in the Ottawa Police and the Mounties to do his job, thereby converting a temporary problem into a historic assault on civil rights and the dignity of his office.

Whenever the coast was clear, Trudeau has predictably acted like a schoolyard bully to give himself gravitas. In addition to the Convoy, there was his draconian vaccine assault on the unconvinced, the cemetery pantomime leading to calling his nation genocidal at the UN, the imposition of the Carbon Tax and the honouring of a former Nazi in Parliament to silence his Ukraine critics. To impress his UN, EU and WEF pals he’s dissed Donald Trump at a distance, something that will now haunt him after November.

His cabinet and party quickly learned that they’d never be canned if they polished the PM’s apple. Most recently came the news that a cabinet minister had ordered the military to prioritize his fellow Sikhs in the frantic retreat from Afghanistan. Using the armed forces to protect your kin? Trudeau gave Harjit Singh Sajjat a pass because Harjit thinks (publicly at least) that the Boss is swell.

The Chinese cutouts in his caucus are likewise exempt from accountability, because Justin wants to be loved in Beijing. Why not? When he’s been repeatedly nailed on ethics violations or self-dealing he’s just gone la-la-la-la-la-la and moved on to new catastrophes. Or had a former Governor General whitewash his devious dealings.

In fact, the only way to get in trouble with Trudeau is to DO your job properly. Justice minister Jodi Wilson Raybould, a signature appointee as a woman and native, was canned by Trudeau for insisting the RCMP get to the bottom of a scandal from Quebec-based SNC Lavalin. Bill Morneau was edged out, because his view of a functioning economy didn’t include the top-down imposition of fantasist climate and gender diktats.

Both Biden and Trudeau drone on about restoring people’s faith in government without ever asking whether there are the problem. When your heart is pure, they say, your mission is noble. Now shut up.

Except Biden and later Trudeau are about to find out that their public is in no mood to shut up anymore.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. His new book Deal With It: The Trades That Stunned The NHL And Changed hockey is now available on Amazon. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his previous book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via brucedowbigginbooks.ca.

Continue Reading

Bruce Dowbiggin

Trump Almost Killed by Assassin: Corporate Media Says He Had It Coming

Published on

This was meant to be about the NBA’s new eight-year $76 billion TV contract, but other stuff has intervened. So we will save that for later…

Speaking of media, they had a great day on Saturday. They also had a disastrous day. Donald Trump was the target of an assassination attempt that grazed his head and killed a spectator at a rally in Pennsylvania. (Two others are in critical condition.) The legacy media and the populist press were there to record it. The images will endure for generations.

How did the media have a good day? For an industry hemorrhaging viewers and readers to social media since Trump become president in 2016, the shooting brought back the mainstream audience. In the same way that Joe Biden’s disastrous debate produced 1980s-style ratings, the networks, cable news and Tiffany media saw old customers return to them, if briefly, for authority and instant news gathering. They can now assure their advertisers that old habits die hard, and they should still command M*A*S*H-like ad rates.

The pictures of the shooting on a beautiful summer day were gripping. An image of the dead 20-year-old gunman at the feet of snipers was produced. The networks assembled images and witnesses promptly. (The best live interview was by a blind BBC reporter who found spectators who’d warned in advance of a shooter on the roof.) Within hours alternate videos were broadcast. And footage of diminutive Secret Service agents fumbling Trump’s departure sparked questions about their failure to protect the president.

A series of stunning Iwo-Jima style images of Trump and his Secret Service group beneath Old Glory are breathtaking examples of the craft of news photography. So perfect was the staging in some photos that viewers could not help but wonder if it was all an AI Simulation.

It was not, course. The picture became a lot blurrier when the talking heads inserted themselves to blot the copybook of the story. The first headlines from Trump-loathing media were comical. Despite images instantly showing blood and Trump tackled, CNN bugled, “Secret Service Rushes Trump Offstage After He Falls At Rally”. “Trump Escorted Away After Loud Noises at Pa. Rally”. “Gunman Dies In Attack” was the banner headline in the Denver Post as if he’d shot a gopher.

And so on, as the Seventh Cavalry of Truth rode to the scene. After eight years of Hitler comparisons and invocations of death for Trump they briefly pivoted like Pontius Pilate, washing their hands of the Bobby DeNiros, Kathy Griffins and Rob Reiners who might have gotten their Trump death wish. Starting with Biden himself, whose raving over a Trump 47 presidency (“It’s time Trump was put in a bullseye”) has gone to 11 on the Hysteria Scale. “He’s literally a threat to everything American stands for”. Suddenly, Senile Joe was conciliatory Joe.

Leading to mocking tweets such as “Thank God Hitler is okay and wishing Hitler a speedy recovery.” DEMs stalwart Nancy Pelosi, too, was concern incarnate. “I am horrified by what happened at the Trump rally in Pennsylvania and relieved that former President Trump is safe. Political violence has no place in our country.” This is the same Pelosi who’d urged followers to punch Trump in the face while saying he “must be stopped. He cannot be President.”

Senate Speaker Chuck Schumer— he of “You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions”— was also working the faux-concern speech. You can understand how this reversal of fortune was playing out for the Bette Midler Glee Club after Biden’s self-incineration during the debate with Trump last month.

The conciliatory barely tone lasted into Sunday morning. Confronted with their previous bloviation, the RussiaGate crowd pivoted back to blaming Trump’s rude rhetoric for escalating the tension between Right and Left. Fresh from acid-washing Biden last week, George Stephanopoulos joined fellow ABC pundit Martha Raddatz in a game of “Trump said it first”. “President Trump and his supporters have contributed to this violent rhetoric…etc,.” “And let’s remember January 6th…” etc.

Here was MSNBC stalwart Joy Reid working the “Trump as Hitler” theme last week. And then, despite Trump’s Jan. 6 request to “peacefully and patriotically march to the Capitol”, she again charged him with inciting the riot.  Others were reviving Trump’s use of the term “bloodbath” in the economy as proof he’s a stone-cold killer. They declared Trump’s defiant “Fight! Fight! Fight!” response as unpresidential, raising tensions in a crisis.

Perhaps the realization that this botched takeout has all but guaranteed Trump’s election this November was sinking in. So “It’s all his own fault” again became the default position. Axios wants Trump to announce that “he has been too rough, too loose, too combative with his language — and now realizes words can have consequences, and promises to tone it down.” Sure. Victim asked for it.

Sensing that their crazed hosts might resume their Hate Trump mantra too soon, MSNBC took its Morning Joe off the air Monday. Comedy Central said it would shelve some prepared material for the GOP Convention this week. Late night shows sheathed their blades (briefly) to appear sensitive.

In the “anything you can do we can do worse”, Canadian media were quick to get the blame back on a guy who came within a millimetre of having his brains splashed over the stage. Even as the president was being wheeled away my old CBC pal Paul Hunter was lamenting Trump’s speech for poisoning the dialogue and warning about a violent reaction from the MAGA crowd.

CBC News At Issue panelist Andrew Coyne set a world record for pivoting from decrying an assassination attempt to midwit gripes about how this “is going to embolden/incite his more violent followers. It is going to push some who were not disposed to violence to justify it to themselves… it is going to make Trump even  more bent on revenge  if he gets elected.”

Considering this unhinged bias it’s no surprise that the sewer of Canada’s universities continued to produce fruitcakes like this UBC medical instructor who took time from her day to contact her just-as-unhinged friend with a “Damn, so close. Too Bad.” Her pal responded with “I really wish this person had better aim”.

Don’t feel too bad, Canada, Britain’s media are equally odious, with Sky News asking, “Did Trump play a part in changing the rules of engagement?” This from  the gender police who think a woman dressed lasciviously cannot be blamed for enticement. Meanwhile the far-left Guardian accused Trump— with no evidence— of encouraging revenge.

Calls are now going out in America for peace in the valley, finding unity and brotherly/ sisterly love. Don’t believe it. By week’s end the howler monkeys will be back in full voice, trying to get you to unsee what happened Saturday. Sorry, can’t be undone.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. His new book Deal With It: The Trades That Stunned The NHL And Changed hockey is now available on Amazon. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his previous book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via brucedowbigginbooks.ca.

Continue Reading

Trending

X