Exclusive: "I feel for Lance Armstrong" says Ben Johnson

Sunday, 22 September 2013
By Mike Rowbottom

Ben Johnson, stripped of his Olympic 100 metres gold medal 25 years ago this week, has expressed his sympathy for disgraced cyclist Lance ArmstrongSeptember 22 - Ben Johnson, whose name has been a byword for doping in sport since his 1988 Olympic 100 metres title and world record were annulled following a positive test, has spoken out in sympathy with another hugely high profile doping offender, cyclist Lance Armstrong, whose seven Tour de France titles were ruled out following doping admissions.

"We are all human beings," Johnson told insidethegames.

"We all make mistakes in life. I feel for him.

"Hopefully he will overcome the situation - but it's going to be tough for quite a while. I should know.

"It's a situation you have to live with all the time. I wish him the best."

Johnson is due to return to the Seoul Olympic Stadium on Tuesday (September 24) to mark the 25th anniversary of his 100m victory as the concluding part of an anti-doping campaign which has recently taken him to the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and Japan.

The campaign, #ChooseTheRightTrack, is being promoted by the sportswear company SKINS, whose Chairman, Jaimie Fuller, has been accompanying Johnson.

Lance Armstrong, stripped of his seven Tour de France victories, has received a message of support from Ben JohnsonLance Armstrong, stripped of his seven Tour de France victories, has received a message of support from Ben Johnson

"Every time people talk about a doping positive people talk about Ben Johnson," the 51-year-old former sprinter added.

"But now I'm just trying to get the message across.

"I'm happy I'm doing this, deep down in my heart.

"When I was doing drugs I knew I wasn't doing it right.

"Not a lot has changed in the last 25 years.

"People are still testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs like they were when I was competing.

"Twenty five years ago I knew that other people were doping and I had the decision of whether I should do it or not.

"I felt like I needed to try and please people in my camp.

"I felt like most of the athletes I was going to be competing against would be doing the same thing.

"Twenty five years on, as an older man, I see people making the same mistake.

"The way it can change is if athletes can have someone to talk to who will tell them the right decision to take.

"It's not just about punishment.

"You have to light the candle at both ends.

Ben Johnson claims, 25 years after he became the most notorious cheat in history, that he never wanted to take performance-enhancing drugsBen Johnson claims, 25 years after he became the most notorious cheat in history, that he never wanted to take performance-enhancing drugs

"You need to be talking to 17-18 year olds who are heading for the Youth Olympics or the junior World Championships.

"You need to give them information and to get into their minds.

"This is the way you have to try to stop this generation moving forward in the wrong direction.

"Athletes have to work together on this. I think it can be done."

To read the full interview with Johnson click here

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