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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing after only 9.79 seconds
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...
Published on 12 Jun 2012 by SportsBioFan

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A nice reading but...
... 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...
Published 9 months ago by Amazon Customer


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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing after only 9.79 seconds, 12 Jun 2012
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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that someone wrote a decent account of both the race itself, and the ramifications of Johnson's disqualification and rescinded medal.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.

Earlier in the year, I contacted the author to verify that the self-same Richard Moore who wrote much-lauded cycling biographies had also produced this book ('The Dirtiest Race...' was not listed on his website at the time). In confirming, he mentioned in his response that, over the course of compiling the book, "Johnson was not all bad, and Lewis was not all good."

That indeed cannot be argued with. But as the only slight criticism I can make, I came away from Moore's book feeling as though a bit too much credence was given to Johnson's various theories and claims, and in particular, the now infamous 'mystery man' set-up explanation for his positive test. Over the years, Johnson has given more reasons and subsequent U-turns for his fall from grace than I care to remember. So it is somewhat puzzling that the 'mystery man' theory - whilst definitely interesting - is given such focus. Don't get me wrong - I was pleased Johnson was getting a fair hearing; otherwise this book would simply be a lengthy exercise in condemning a 'drug cheat'. I just wasn't so sure that such gravitas should be given to suggestions that Johnson wasn't entirely to blame for his downfall. However, considering Johnson has held on to the possibility of sabotage so steadfastly, Moore was right to explore this even if it does allow Johnson a very unlikely scapegoat.

The 100m final in Seoul '88 was so fascinating, and so far beyond a mere sporting event that it has long deserved a comprehensive and fair re-telling, and Moore's latest work is up to that task - neutral journalism on this sporting landmark is very hard to come by and Moore, by and large, strikes a great balance. In a similar vein to Moore's brilliant book 'In Search of Robert Millar', the progression and narrative are really enjoyable. The hours flew by whilst reading this - and I think that would be the case even if the reader has only a passing curiosity of the scandal(s) of Ben Johnson's 1988 disqualification. Moore is definitely one of the best sports writers around - enforced by his ability to recapture the magic and marvels of the sporting heroes of which he writes. In an unprecedented move, I have actually started to read this book for a second time - something I have never done with any sporting literature. Thoroughly recommended.
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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
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... 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. Moreover new tests for stanozolol were setup and used for the first time in that games. Those tests allowed to detect the steroid usage on a wider temporal window and that's why Johnson was caught. The author doesn't seem to stress this information well enough. He talks about Andre Jackson instead.

Though I enjoyed the book, to me these are two major flaws that lower the rating because they just "brainwash" the occasional or uninformed reader leading him to believe an alternative ending of the story that never really happened. But they are also very common in every piece of British literature/documentary about the Seoul scandal
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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
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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
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply stunning - in many senses, 11 Feb 2014
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This review is from: The Dirtiest Race in History: Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis and the 1988 Olympic 100m Final (Wisden Sports Writing) (Paperback)
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 of Ben Johnson, delved into in great depth was something too good to resist.

Of course I thought I knew a lot about this already. I all knew about Johnson, and it had become quite well known that the majority involved in that race had had their reputations tarnished by drugs at some point. I also knew that Carl Lewis, oh holier than thou Carl Lewis, had failed a drugs test at the US Olympic trials in 1988. I also knew that drug taking, by which I mean steroid and testosterone use in particular, in Athletics was fairly widespread at that time. The Soviets and East Germans we all know about. Likewise Ben Johnson. Florence Griffith-Joyner, Flo-Jo, a decent sprinter one year turned husky voiced muscle popping sensation the next, seemed beyond parody and top of anyone’s suspicion list, despite no doping evidence ever being found.<!--more-->

But the revelation of this book is just how deep the problems went. The USA, that bastion of Cold War righteousness, seems to have been every bit as big a player in drugs in sport as their eastern adversaries. And what is more, the extent of the cover-ups makes you weep for your lost innocence. As a child I marvelled at the feats of Lewis, Johnson, Flo-Jo et al. I also recall the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, and it saddened me to read of the covered up positive drugs tests involving medallists that year too. Sadly we’ll never know who those athletes were. Should I be surprised? I suppose not, given the era, and yet it still made me sad to read it.

Moore’s book builds up from that 1984 games to the denouement four years later in Seoul, mapping the progress of the two main protagonists and their entourage, as well as a few of the other key players. It is a superbly well written and hugely engaging tome, shining a light into depths far deeper and murkier than I’d imagined, even though I’d thought I was quite well informed on this subject.

Interviews, or published accounts, with all the main players including the often elusive Carl Lewis add to the narrative and provide an insight and level of understanding, if not acceptance, of those involved and what they did. What strikes most is the lack of remorse, or even comprehension that they were doing much wrong – and I don’t just mean Johnson here, far from it. It leaves me feeling that perhaps they were right in that almost everyone was doing it, but only some were caught.

It left me with mixed emotions about Ben Johnson: sadness that he chose such a path, and also sympathy that he was the only one to take such a fall. It’s hard not to feel pity for the hounding he received, even if it was brought upon himself.

There is frustration too, at the extent of the involvement of the sport powers in cover-ups and in burying their collective heads in the sand. One can only trust that such complicity and cheating no longer happens. Recent measures such as biological passports and far more rigorous out of competition testing surely makes it easier to believe that what we witness is real, but then the likes of Lance Armstrong and the cyclists of the early 21st century showed that grand scale drugs cheating is not merely a problem of the distant past.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First Class, 10 Aug 2013
This review is from: The Dirtiest Race in History: Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis and the 1988 Olympic 100m Final (Wisden Sports Writing) (Paperback)
What a book this is. It is written like a crime thriller and does not fail to deliver. I am a keen athletics fan and studied drugs in sport so this was brilliant particularly how honest it was. It comes from many different angles and I like the way it doesn't shy away from the fact the Americans are just as guilty as anyone, they were just upset someone was doing it better than they were after the '84 olympics.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No winners, 23 April 2013
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Excellent book. Really eye opening account of the notorious 1988 race. Also a great insight into the politics of the sport and pyschology of the competitors.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Starts off well but gets a bit distracted, 22 Jan 2013
By 
Cornisle "cornisle" (newcastle upon tyne) - See all my reviews
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Spends a bit too much timne analysing Carl Lewis with lots of hearsay and not a great deal of evidence at times. Takes too long to get to the race in question.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant insight into the shock and drama of Ben Johnson's ..., 23 July 2014
By 
Simon P. Knowles "Knowlsie" (Melbourne, Australia) - See all my reviews
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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. Portrays the fierce rivalry between him and Carl Lewis that led up to the Seoul Olympics. A must for any sports fan, still one of the most dramatic events in Olympics history
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Dirtiest Race in History, 4 April 2014
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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 could barely put it down until he finished it. We learned to look at events differently - I can't say any more without this review becoming a spoiler.
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