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on 23 November 2013
... 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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on 31 October 2013
Very well written book about one of the greatest moments in Olympic history. As a 12 year-old I wondered how Johnson had managed to run so fast and why his eyes looked yellow, days later the truth came out. Drug use was so common place in athletics that it needed this high profile moment to raise the profile to breaking point in the media, cheats should never prosper...
However in Johnson's case its not totally black and white and only 2 of the 100m 88 field were never caught taking drugs in their careers at some..level and point. Really enjoyed this book.
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on 25 June 2012
I'm halfway through this book, and am having to force myself to put it down at night to get some sleep. For anyone with even a passing interest in competitive sports, the Olympics, or the two main 'characters' in the book, Ben Johnson or Carl Lewis, this book is a must read.
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on 13 November 2013
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. Good book, would definitely recommend it
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VINE VOICEon 19 August 2012
When Ben Johnson was disqualified as winner of the 100m at Seoul in the 1988 Olympics the gold medal was awarded to his rival Carl Lewis. Yet Lewis should not have been allowed to compete. At the American championships three months earlier his sample had contained illegal substances which ruled him out of the Olympics. He escaped censure on the grounds he had 'inadvertantly' taken the offending chemicals although no investigation took place. He was not the only one who escaped punishment, seven other athletes also provided positive tests at the trials. The results were hidden from public view.

This was not the first time the Americans had hidden positive testing results. The 1984 Olympics held in Los Angeles made history by producing a profit. Its organiser Peter Ueberroth complained to the International Olympic Committee(IOC) that 'drugs and doctors are not only controlling the Games of the XX111 Olympiad, they are beginning to gain control of the whole Olympic movement'. During the Games nine positive tests were reported to the IOC. In theory the athletes involved could be identified from a code but the safe containing the codes allegedly went missing. One athlete who was caught was the Italian hammer thrower, Giampaolo Urlando. The head of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), Primo Nebiolo, himself an Italian, tried to prevent Urlando's disqualification. Three years later he denied any knowledge of Italian officials' cheating when they falsely gave Giovanni Evangelisti a long jump mark at the World Championships which placed him third ahead of the true bronze medalist, Larry Myricks. His denial was met with widespread cynicism.

Nebiolo was egoistical, corrupt and a bully. The IAAF was run from a small office in Putney. As soon as Nebiolo was 'elected' to office he moved the organisation to an office in Knightsbridge with a big suite known as the president's room, lavishly furnished and which he used perhaps one a year. His motive was to make Nebiolo bigger and greater on a daily basis. He introduced the World Championships and acknowledged that athletes were being paid. However, his greed contributed to a culture of 'win at all costs' which encouraged using performance enhancing drugs. By the mid-eighties Joe Douglas, founder of the Santa Monica Track Club, was asking $100,000 appearance money for Lewis with his other athletes thrown in as bait and taking the money in cash. It was a policy adopted by Andy Norman, who dominated international placements for British athletes, until he was sacked following the death of Cliff Temple.

Jamacia is currently dominating world sprinting but its potential was already evident in 1988. Although only Ray Stewart represented Jamacia, Johnson (Canada) and Linford Christie (Great Britain) were both born there. Desai Williams (Canada) was born in nearby St Kitts and Nevis. There were two Americans in the race, Dennis Mitchell and Calvin Smith. In 1998 Mitchell was tested positive for testosterone which he attributed to 'five bottles of beer and sex with his wife at least four times' as her birthday treat. Amazingly, USA Track and Field accepted his explanation but the IAAF did not and he was banned for two years. Only two of the finalists finished their careers without any allegations of drug taking, Smith and Robson da Silva (Brazil). Moore implies Smith was the moral victor of the 1988 race.

Carl Lewis and Ben Johnson had one thing in common. As youngsters they were small and not particularly outstanding athletes. However, Lewis came from a middle-class family and decided at an early stage he was going to become a millionaire and never work for a living. In addition, his mother was an international hurdler and his sister won bronze medals at two World Championships. Johnson's family was not well-off and he was subsidised by his coach Charlie Francis who did the same for all his athletes including Jamacian born Angella Taylor, later Issajenko, who represented Canada. Francis and Carl Lewis's manager, Joe Douglas, were on friendly terms until Francis introduced his athletes to drugs. Francis hated Lewis but so too did most of the American media. They perceived his desire for privacy as arrogance and his arrogance as egoism. Although he won four gold medals at the 1984 Olympics his refusal to take the maximum number of long jumps led to booing from the crowd. Lewis had been offered a contract by Coca Cola before the 1984 Olympics which was not accepted on the grounds he would be more marketable after the event. He wasn't and the offer was withdrawn.

Johnson was the opposite of Lewis. He spoke with a stutter so tried not to speak at all. In taking drugs he knew he was cheating but appears not to have appreciated the consequences. Hence when he was tested positive and asked to return his gold medal he did so without hesitation. He was not concerned with the humiliation but to protect his mother from the media. No one had died so in Johnson's eyes the matter was not as serious as other people were making out. He was less of a scapegoat as a victim of naivity. Johnson claims his sample was tainted by Andre Jackson. Jackson was a colleague of Joe Douglas who admitted Jackson was present while Johnson was replacing his depleted fluid levels before providing a sample. Douglas claimed Jackson was there to make sure Johnson's test was above board. Of course he shouldn't have been there at all.

In the wake of Johnson's disqualification Canada set up the Dubin Inquiry into the use of steroids in athletics. What had been rumoured quickly coalesced into facts. What had previously been denied was fully admitted. The North Americans were using drugs and suppressing evidence. The sport, not just East Germany and the Soviet Union, was riddled with drugs. It still is although probably not on the scale of the late eighties. Excellent book, brilliantly written and well worth buying. Five stars.
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on 5 November 2013
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 stories behind the big event. Well worth a read.
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on 23 April 2013
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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on 18 July 2012
The Seoul 100m final is widely accepted as one of the most dramatic sporting events of the modern era.

As amateurism gave way to professionalism this book brings back to the fore the dilemmas, the deceit, the disgrace and the rationalisation.

Good or bad this race changed the face of sport forever and finally there is a book that describes all of the nuances of an event that has led us to the point we are now.

Well researched and written, this book allows the reader to delve into the facts and perhaps form their own conclusion on some of the aspects of not only the race but its prelude and the sequelae.

For those with an interest in sport I would thoroughly recommend this book.

For those with an interest in performance enhancing drugs, and a pivotal moment in time, I would say it is compulsory reading.
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on 17 September 2012
Bought the kindle version of this based on a recommendation. Thoroughly enjoyed the book from beginning to end. Well researched, well organised and spiced with humour and anecdotes from the main players. Without giving too much away, this book will probably challenge your opinion of the Olympics and indeed Ben Johnson. Highly recommended.
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on 18 October 2012
I am disappointed that Richard Moore only comments on drug taking in sport when the action and controversy is in the past. I would like to know why Richard did not take his investigative journalism into the Lance Armstrong case. When the dossier from USADA was passed to the UCI and to the media, Richard Moore spoke on BBC breakfast TV news and expressed shock and surprise. He said no-one in the media could have known about it. Really? Richard has only written about lucrative non-controversial subjects in cycling, and I am disappointed that he is still being very careful about what he says about Lance Armstrong.
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