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on 31 October 2013
Awesome and believable account of a fascinating clandestine era of sport

Truly a must read for anyone even vaguely interested in sport
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on 8 October 2015
This race is one I remember from my childhood, anyone with an interest in sport will enjoy this book, especially those over the age of 40!!
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on 30 September 2012
Superb book setting out the background story to one of the greatest scandals ever to hit the Olympic Games. Almost impossible to put down.
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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 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 7 November 2013
A very interesting read which may have ruined my childhood memories of athletics. This book opened my eyes to what was going on.
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on 15 March 2013
What a fantastic book it shows how much Ben J was stitched up so the then golden boy of athletics got away with being a cheat
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on 19 January 2013
A very good read about an era that captured our imagination
Love the build up to THAT race, totally engrossing.
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on 6 August 2013
Very good read about this period in athletics, after reading you wont be able to decide who won stuff legitimately.
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on 24 August 2013
Excellent read. You realise how little the public really knows of the how widespread is the use of drugs in sport
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