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The Dirtiest Race in History: Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis and the 1988 Olympic 100m Final (Wisden Sports Writing): Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis and the Olympic 100m Final [Hardcover]

Richard Moore
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 Jun 2012 Wisden Sports Writing
The 1988 Seoul Olympics played host to what has been described by some as the dirtiest race of all time, by others as the greatest. The final of the men's 100 metres at those Olympics is certainly the most infamous in the history of athletics, and more indelibly etched into the consciousness of the sport, the Olympics, and a global audience of millions, than any other athletics event before or since.

Ben Johnson's world-record time of 9.79 seconds - as thrilling as it was - was the beginning rather than the end of the story. Following the race, Johnson tested positive, news that generated as many - if not more - shockwaves as his fastest ever run. He was stripped of the title, with Lewis awarded the gold medal, Linford Christie the silver and Calvin Smith the bronze.

More than two decades on, the story still hadn't ended. In 1999 Lewis was named Sportsman of the Century by the IOC, and Olympian of the Century by Sports Illustrated. Yet his reputation was damaged by revelations that he too used performance-enhancing drugs, and tested positive prior to the Seoul Olympics. Christie also tested positive in Seoul but his explanation, that the banned substance had been in ginseng tea, was accepted. Smith, now a lecturer in English literature at a Florida university, was the only athlete in the top five whose reputation remains unblemished - the others all tested positive at some stage in their careers.

Containing remarkable new revelations, this book uses witness interviews - with Johnson, Lewis and Smith among others - to reconstruct the build-up to the race, the race itself, and the fallout when news of Johnson's positive test broke and he was forced into hiding. It also examines the rivalry of the two favourites going into it, and puts the race in a historical context, examining its continuing relevance on the sport today, where every new record elicits scepticism.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Wisden (7 Jun 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408135957
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408135952
  • Product Dimensions: 3.1 x 16 x 23.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 125,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'The book will bring armchair athletes to the edge of their seats - and leave them with a very nasty taste in their mouths' -- Mail on Sunday

'The book is a magnificent document about the Carl Lewis-Ben Johnson rivalry. It plunges you deep into the bitterness that marked their enmity and because Moore is the kind of journalist who will speak to 17 people when he could get the story from two, the breadth and detail is astonishing' -- The Times

'A remarkably fresh read given the amount of ink already spilled on the topic. Author Richard Moore has delivered what is certainly the most comprehensive account, and as close to definitive as possible without giving all the 'answers'' --Glasgow Herald

'Probably the finest sports book published this year' --

'A captivating and detailed account ... it reads like a thriller, which is exactly the right tone to adopt by author Richard Moore for a story dripping with skulduggery and intrigue ... compelling' --Sunday Express

'The sportswriter Richard Moore tells the story at a sprinter's pace in his rollicking and well-researched The Dirtiest Race in History' -- Simon Kuper, Financial Times

'Written with a fine sense of balance, timing and tension' --The Guardian

About the Author

Richard Moore is an award-winning sports journalist with several books to his name including In Search of Robert Millar and Heroes, Villains and Velodromes.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing after only 9.79 seconds 12 Jun 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Ever since my January 2012 pre-order for this book, I have found myself counting down the days to finally read about the sporting moment that transfixed me as a young lad. I have read many sports biographies over the years and never anticipated one as much as this. Over 20 years on, the 1988 Olympics men's 100m final and the aftermath are as resonant as ever, so it was high time that someone wrote a decent account of both the race itself, and the ramifications of Johnson's disqualification and rescinded medal.

In terms of the research and the writing of the book - in concurrence with the first reviewer - the author cannot be faulted. Richard Moore exhaustively, yet enjoyably, leaves no stone unturned in setting the scene for the most maligned sprint meet of all time. With total accuracy, he builds the picture of athletics during the Eighties - which includes the significance of the emerging 'arms race' between drug users in athletics and anti-doping agencies - as well as the differing paths both main protagonists (Carl Lewis and Ben Johnson) followed from school to Seoul. Moore meets everyone of relevance to the 100m final - managers, coaches, colleagues, drug-testers, other competing athletes and of course, Lewis and Johnson themselves.

Those who follow athletics will realise that Moore has written about two men who are intriguing in many ways; notably within their achievements, their personal lives, and their reception to worldwide (and native) audiences. Even today, it is fascinating how Lewis and Johnson polarise opinion, and just how many Lewis detractors and Johnson fans exist - and this does not go unnoticed by Moore.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A nice reading but... 23 Nov 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
... the author falls a bit short when reporting some important facts. Overall it is an interesting reading, filled with anecdotes and profiles of people involved in the arguably most famous rivalry in the history of track and field. The background of Carl Lewis is mainly an extrapolation of Sports Illustrated articles from the '80s and the Ben Johnson's one is sourced from his interviews and Charlie Francis' books. The book gives a fresh picture of what was track and field back then with the behind the scenes of international meetings, athletes lives and the reception of the surrounding community: journalists, fans, anti-doping experts etc. The rivalry culminating with the Seoul final is well accounted. However to keep the book more interesting the author has willingly made two big mistakes:

1 ) He clearly shows he read the Los Angles Times article "Just a dash of drugs in Lewis, DeLoach" by Alan Abrahamson. He reports everything of that article except one important piece of information: by IOC rules the amount of stimulants found in Lewis urine were not enough to cause immediate disqualification (was under 10 ppm) but was in a range requiring an investigation on the provenience of the substances. At the end of that the medical staff from USOC and IAAF considered the athlete eligible to take part to the games. Nevertheless the author asserts in the book that he had to be disqualified from the Olympic Games due to the rules. That is false.
2) He gives too much importance to the story of Andre Jackson to keep the reading even more interesting. Problem is that the "spiked beer" story of Ben Johnson is a dead issue, buried under tons of strong scientific arguments that show it was impossible.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 9.79 seconds that changed track athletics 10 Oct 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
First of all, disclaimers: I have and always adore athletics and I own and have read every one of Richard Moore's fine books. That I rate this as five stars should not come as a surprise.

This is the first of Richard Moore's books that 'snuck up on me' and I only realised it had been published when it popped up in my Amazon recommendations. From the moment it arrived I devoured it and by that evening, it was finished.

I remember this race at the time and I can remember my father telling me at breakfast that Ben Johnson had been stripped of his title. My Canadian friend was distraught, the press were shellshocked and I was wondering if I could ever watch another race again. This book bought back all of those emotions and more while painting a sympathetic picture of Ben Johnson and giving what in my opinion is the first profile of Carl Lewis that wasn't written by one of Carl Lewis's publicists.

Without going into too many details, there are plenty of avenues in this book left open for we will never truly know what went on in the months and years leading up to the race and indeed what goes on in the locker rooms and training facilities of this current generation of sports people. This book will take you back to '88 and the shock we all felt when we realised the world's fastest man was actually a fraud.

This is one that you can't afford to miss.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book on many levels 27 Aug 2012
By john
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Aside from one's views regarding Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis, this race was a turning point for the Olympics. Ben Johnson was not the first nor the last Olympian to run on PED's. Carl Lewis was running a race he should have never been allowed to run after testing positive at the US Olympic trials. As a Canadian I am personally ashamed not of the investigation into PED's that took place at the Dubin Inquiry, but am entirely ashamed of the way that Mr. Johnson was publicly lynched.
This book, while sometimes delving into questionable territory exploiting the stereotypes at the time (Ben Johnson - poor immigrant, arrogant winner and typical evolution of a steroid program) and Carl Lewis (arrogant middle class athlete blessed with natural skills), gives an account into the atmosphere at the time. The power of the US Olympic Committee, the method of testing, where a perfect stranger had access to Ben Johnson post-race (whether or not he "spiked the beer" is irrelevant - his mere presence and the lack of security was outrageous, his association to Mr. Lewis even more so) are all dealt with rather well.
All 100m races since have been put into question (correctly). All sub - 10 second times are questionable, and the fact that one man was sacrificed to save the face of the Olympics cost the very Olympics in the long run. Six were associated with PED's, one was sacrificed.
An interesting book, a fantastic read and a thoughtful look back at a race that made the world pause for 9.79 seconds. Faster races have been run, but none as exciting as Seoul 1988.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant insight into the shock and drama of Ben Johnson's ...
Brilliant insight into the shock and drama of Ben Johnson's infamous gold medal win in the 1988 100m, and his subsequent failed drug test. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Simon P. Knowles
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dirtiest Race in History
Swift delivery and well packaged, appreciated this as it was a present.

The recipient who remembers that incredible Olympic scandal said the book was so compelling he... Read more
Published 3 months ago by CBDatabases
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply stunning - in many senses
This was a book I’d been itching to get my hands on ever since I first heard about it. A seminal sporting moment from my youth, both in terms of the original race and the downfall... Read more
Published 5 months ago by The Sports Book Review
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Great look into the seedy world of...well Carl Lewis mainly. Also pretty relevant as a backdrop to sports and athletics today. Really accessible read.
Published 7 months ago by Zedbed
5.0 out of 5 stars WOW
Great book, well written a real insight into the dirty world of past drug cheating athletes, really makes you think who is NOT on performance enhancing drugs, is it going on today,... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Yorkypud
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling read
For me the 1988 was my first real Olympics - I was 16 at the time and although I recall both 1980 and 1984 well they were both marred by the USA and Soviet boycotts. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Mr Alistair R Mattock
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Fascinating and interesting read. A lot more to the race than I realised. Shame he wasn't able to interview Lewis at length but it adds to the mystery surrounding him. Read more
Published 8 months ago by G. Thomas
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating insight .
A very interesting read which may have ruined my childhood memories of athletics. This book opened my eyes to what was going on.
Published 8 months ago by Marc
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book!
Absolutely brilliant book, even for those like me with a passing interest In athletics without any active involvement with track and field. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Shantanu
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Thoroughly enjoyed another of Moore's books. Well written, insightful, clearly done his research. Always like the way he takes a subject and steps the reader through the personal... Read more
Published 8 months ago by david burns
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