Posted by: cedarsurf | February 11, 2010

Drug Controversy at the Games…Ben Johnson & Me

In February of 1987 Ben Johnson was coming to Vancouver to accept the CP Press Canadian Athlete of the Year Award. I read this one paragraph story in the Vancouver Sun and approached Malcolm Parry Ed. at Van Mag. at the time if I could do a piece on him. After much mashing Mac agreed. We’d run it in August when the World Championships of Track and Field were being held. This is well before the whole Seoul steroid scandal. No one knew who Ben Johnson was. Alex Waterhouse-Hayward would take the pics at his studio in Yaletown. Ben was guarded, quiet and fascinated with Alex’s watch (a Rolex?).He also had a pronounced stutter. I really liked Ben. We bonded over being able to talk about workouts and such. He had met a fellow gym rat.
Ben was a dutiful son who at this point was still drving his mother to the factory every morning that she worked at just outside Toronto. The biggest controversy that could be associated with him was that he would catch and barbecue pigeon’s that he caught in Toronto’s High Park.
The piece on Ben was one of what were called mini-profiles-inane questions about likes, dislikes etc. very PoP. I asked Ben what his favourite body part was and he pointed to his plates-his chest. What he would like to work on the most? He pointed to his penis and said he’d like to add a few inches.
“You not going to write that down,” said Big Ben.
“Of course ,” I said. “You just busted the whole big black dick thing.”
Ben rolled his eyes and we had a laugh.
It ended up in the piece. I was able to freelance several articles from that one interview. Peter Worthington the editor at the new (and I believe shortlived) Influence Magazine in Toronto wanted me to do a piece on Ben. Could I do a new interview with him? At this point Ben had set a World Record for the first time ( a phenomenal feat steroids or no -and  everyone ,except strangely I suspect Carl Lewis ,Ben’s old nemesis was doing them).Johnson  now had an agent. His name was Larry Heidebrecht and he was somewhere in Virginia -he laughed when he heard my name as he was very familar with the infamous dick quote. I wouldn’t get an interview wiith Ben-it would now cost $25,000 for that privilege.

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Responses

  1. Have you read his new book. I guessing not too many people are willing to pay him $25,000 for an interview.
    He should not be given the time of day yet any time in the news

  2. Bit harsh on Ben. Was he doing what anyone else wasn’t? If it were an American they’d deny it, deny it or a Russian X-Country skier-as Canadians we appoint Royal Commissions, call in the lawyers and say -mea culpa. I prefer my athletes to be clean , some are some aren’t some get caught others won’t- it is a moral question, I guess -but for some reason I can’t hate Ben, I feel more sorry for him than anything. In today’s celebrity society (which athletes are a part of) often bad behaviour is rewarded -sad but true…


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