During a break from Ben Johnson's tearful testimony at the 1989 Dubin
inquiry, a New York writer predicted that the Toronto sprinter would end his
days like former heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, financially busted and
Hopefully, that distressing scenario will not come to fruition, but it
seems there will be no happy ending for the one-time king of world sport: No
reinstatement. No lucrative movie deal. No plum coaching position or political
appointment. No bulging bank account to fall back on.
Any light Big Ben saw at the end of whatever tunnel he has been peering
into recently has completely faded. Any chance the former world and Olympic
champion had of being reinstated to competitive track were dashed last
November when he tested positive for banned drugs for a third time. Even if
the International Amateur Athletic Federation allowed him back -- and that
will happen right after the Russians establish colonies on Pluto -- at 38,
he's done as a competitive sprinter. And now, in perhaps the final act of this
bizarre and sad career, Johnson's agent, Morris Chrobotek, officially has
dumped the suspended sprinter, a parting rife with acrimony and distrust.
"I can't say too much at this time," said Chrobotek, who usually can't say
enough to the media.
"Let's just say that his third positive drug test was very disturbing and
it pretty well explains what was going on since Day 1, since the 1980s," the
Toronto businessman said. "It pretty well explains everything in one word."
And that word is?
"You figure it out," Chrobotek said.
At the Dubin inquiry, Johnson admitted that he knowingly used banned
substances. But he still denies cheating after his first suspension and
insists that the subsequent positives in 1993 and 1999 were mistakes by the
testing people, or the result of some wild conspiracy to banish him from
track. Until yesterday, Chrobotek firmly supported his client's position.
Things have changed. Chrobotek no longer insists that the third positive, for
the banned substance hydrochlorothiazide, a diuretic than can be used as a
masking agent, was an innocent mistake.
Despite his initial support for Johnson after failed urine test No. 3,
Chrobotek said the most-recent bad lab day was the deciding factor in his
decision to split -- but not the only one. Since returning from a three-month
coaching stint in Libya, Chrobotek said Johnson has failed to understand what
is needed (a miracle) for his reinstatement and how much money they had to
raise to pay his legal bills.
"He said some things to me that were quite serious and disturbing, and
totally untrue," Chrobotek said. "I don't talk to him anymore. I can't."
Attempts to reach Johnson this week were unsuccessful.
UP IN SMOKE: At a time when Olympic-sport athletes are desperately
searching for ways to buy ketchup to go with their Kraft dinner and
amateur-sport federation heads are taking up panhandling as a hobby, the
Canadian Olympic Association has descended from the heavens to announce that
Canada should finish on top of the medal standings at the 2010 Winter Olympics
and place fourth at the 2008 Summer Games.
"I don't know what they're smoking, but I wouldn't mind some of it," said a
leading winter-sport executive, who wished to remain anonymous.
After years of being financially bled to death by the feds, Canadian
athletes will be extremely hard-pressed to reach those lofty goals, even after
career-best showings (at non-boycotted Olympics) at the most-recent Summer and
Winter Games, where Canada finished 15th and fifth, respectively.
POUND THE DRUM SLOWLY: The chances of Montreal lawyer Dick Pound being
named the next International Olympic Association president keep getting
better. This week, IOC bigwig Mario Vazquez Rana of Mexico pulled out of the
race. With two other favourites -- Kevan Gosper of Australia and Kim Un-yong
of South Korea -- still embroiled in scandal over the 2002 Salt Lake City
Winter Games, the pursuit to replace Juan Antonio Samarach seems to be
developing into a two-horse race between Pound and IOC mouthpiece Jacques
Rogge of Belgium.