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The Dirtiest Race in History By Richard Moore

Release date: 20th September, 2012
Publisher: Wisden

List Price: £18.99
Our Price: £13.29
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Is it true that you need only scratch the surface of most sports to reveal the noxious stench of cheating and corruption? Most of us would like to think not, but one wonders whether professional cycling has, until very recently, remained the only sport tainted by alleged drug-infused shenanigans.

Does it occasionally suit sports governing bodies to keep any mention or suspicion of drug-taking quiet? Are administrators simply more interested in protecting a sport's 'image' rather than publicly carpeting the cheats? Discuss.

Which brings us to an extremely well-researched and wonderfully-written tale about the Olympic 100m final in Seoul in 1988, Richard Moore's outstanding book, The Dirtiest Race in History.

The race, writes Moore, "was magical, thrilling, the stunning denouement to one of sport's most compelling rivalries. A race that - we instinctively knew - would be remembered long after the rest of Seoul had faded in the memory." As the runners took to their starting blocks, however, no one had any idea why the race would be remembered.

Canadian Ben Johnson beat American Carl Lewis in a world record time of 9.79 seconds, but even in the press conference afterwards there was scepticism amongst journalists regarding the method of Johnson's victory.

Three days later, journalistic suspicions were confirmed and Johnson was stripped of his gold after testing positive for taking stanozolol, his medal awarded to Lewis. Yet Lewis too had tested positive for banned stimulants on the eve of the Olympics, but his case was dismissed by US authorities who accepted his excuse of "inadvertent use".

So should the gold have gone to third-placed Linford Christie? Well, it transpires that he too tested positive (for pseudoephedrine) during the Games and was also cleared because of "inadvertent use". Years later, Christie tested positive for taking the steroid nandrolone.

Three other runners in the 100m final (Dennis Mitchell, later banned for taking testosterone, Desai Williams, who admitted to taking anabolic steroids and Ray Stewart, later banned for life while working as a coach) were also tainted. Only US runner Calvin Smith and Brazilian sprinter Robson da Silva enjoy unblemished reputations today.

The intensity and depth of Moore's research make this a fascinating read and prompts the reader to wonder whether the stench of cheating in other sports is closer than we think.


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