December 14 - Sprinter Ben Johnson wins Canada's Athlete of the Year

During the late 1980's, there may not have been a more polarizing figure in Canadian sports than Ben Johnson. From world records, to National Awards, to worldwide controversy, Johnson's athletic career had it all. On this day in 1987, Johnson was given the Lou Marsh Award for Canadian Athlete of the Year for his dominance in the sprinting world. Johnson beat out several other high profile Canadian athletes including "The Great One", Wayne Gretzky.

Johnson took home two bronze medals at the 1984 Olympic Games and from there began one of the most heated rivalries in sports with American sprinter Carl Lewis. By 1986, Canada's human lighting bolt was destroying the competition and was invested as a Member of the "Order of Canada" for becoming at the time, "The World's Fastest Human Being". In 1987, Johnson became a worldwide celebrity as he was making nearly $480,000 a month just from endorsements.

In 1988, after Johnson broke a world record and won the Olympic Gold Medal, he became entrenched in controversy as he was caught for using a banned substance. While he admitted to using the substance, he along with his coach claimed that they used the substance to "remain on equal footing with the competition". Five other sprinters from that race, including Carl Lewis, were either implicated or were caught using banned substances at some point in their careers.

Johnson now lives in Markham, Ontario where he spends the majority of his time with his family.


Jill said...

Ben Johnson's new autobiography SEOUL TO SOUL has recently been published. The book finally tells the events from his own point of view and reveals some new information about the 1988 drug test as well as a completely different look at the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs. I admire Ben for having the courage to stand up and share the truth about what happened to him. He courageously forgives all.

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