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Carl Lewis says top gold came from Johnson

8 August 2008

Nine-time Olympic champion Carl Lewis has no doubts about the most treasured of his gold medals -- the one stripped from drug cheat Ben Johnson.

The U.S. track athlete and Johnson, a Jamaican-born Canadian sprinter, were among the best known sportsmen in the world in 1988 and intense rivals when they raced in the 100 metres at the Seoul Games where Johnson won in world record time.

But three days after beating Lewis, Johnson tested positive for the banned steroid stanozolol and was stripped of the gold medal that was awarded to Lewis.

"That medal is the one that proved I really did it right," Lewis told Reuters in an interview.

"That is the medal that talks to the kids in the world to say do the right thing, not the wrong thing, and stick to what you believe in. That is what that medal stands for for me."

Lewis said his first gold medal, won at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, showed he had worked hard to get to this level while his last gold, won in 1996 in Atlanta, showed he had lasted the distance. Lewis, 47, retired from the sport in 1997.

But the 1988 medal stands out for him. Lewis, the defending Olympic champion, had not only lost his world title to Johnson in the previous year but had also alleged that Johnson was a drugs cheat. It turned out he was right.

"I could have fallen into the temptation to do the same thing and cheat because I was losing but I chose not to, I chose to do it the right way and the right thing happened to me," he said.

"It meant more than sport. It meant who we are and what we can teach our young children."

Lewis, who shares the gold medal record with U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz, Finnish distance runner Paavo Nurmi and Russian gymnast Larysa Latynina, said he did not intend to watch any track and field events while in Beijing.

"I have this thing after I retired that I am going to pick two sports that I have never really watched before. The last Olympics I got into table tennis and team handball and this time I am going to do badminton and I am asking for offers," he said.

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