On This Day: Olympian Ben Johnson wins 'the dirtiest race in history'

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It is one of the most infamous moments in sporting - and Olympic - history. 

On 24, 1988 sprinter Ben Johnson won the 100m final at the Seoul Olympics, breaking the world record in the process.

The 9.79 second victory was memorable in and of itself, but not quite as memorable as what happened the next day.

Ben Johnson raises an arm during Olympics race
Ben Johnson won the 100m final in Seoul on 24 September, 1988, but was stripped of the medal 24 hours later after failing a drugs test. Source: Getty Images

Despite the sprinter declaring:"A gold medal — that's something no one can take away from you", that's exactly what happened when he was found to have failed a drugs test and stripped of his victory.

Johnson's rise to victory contributed to the historic nature of the race. 

Canadian Ben Johnson breaks from the pack during the 100 meter race
Johnson set a world-record and was awarded the gold medal, but was later stripped of his record and medal when it was found he had used steroids. Source: Getty Images

Born in Jamaica in 1961, he moved to Canada with his mother at the age of 15 and developed a love of sprinting. 

Johnson rose to glory, establishing himself as world number one and going on to set a world record at the 1987 World Championships in Rome, a year before his Olympic victory.

His win at Seoul could have been the highlight of his career, but proved to be his downfall after traces of the banned steroid stanozolol were found in his urine.

The 1988 final and its aftermath was a dramatic moment, but also revealed a wider problem with drug-taking in the sport.

It later emerged that six of the eight finalists who competed on that day - including fellow world-famous sprinters Calvin Smith and Linford Christie, would fail drugs tests or be connected to the use of drugs during the careers. 

The situation led to one writer dubbing the 100m final in Seoul as the 'dirtiest race in history'.

Just two of the finalists involved on that day can boast being completely clean of drugs throughout their careers.

Yet despite the race being tainted by the issue, it remains historic not only because of Johnson's victory but the fact that four of the finalists involved recorded sub-10 second times in the race.

While some may call it the 'dirtiest race in history', others will insist it remains one of the greatest races of all time. 

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