HOUSE OF CARDS
The edifice of denials and accusations of malfeasance that has been built around Ben Johnson, the Canadian sprinter whose Olympic gold medal and world record were taken away from him after he tested positive for steroids, is crumbling. Last Friday, Angella Issajenko, another Canadian Olympic sprinter and a former teammate of Johnson's on the Mazda Optimist Track Club in Toronto, told Jean Sonmor of the Toronto Sun, "I can't wait for the——ing probe [the federal inquiry into the Johnson affair announced last week by Canadian sports minister Jean Charest]. When I'm asked, I'm going to tell the people of Canada what I know, and it's going to be like a nuclear bomb exploding. I'm not going to perjure myself. I'm not going to jail for anybody."
By Sunday, Issajenko apparently had decided on a test explosion well in advance of the government inquiry. She told a reporter from the Toronto Star, "Ben takes steroids. I take steroids. Jamie [Dr. George Mario Astaphan] gives them to us, and Charlie [Francis, coach of the Mazda Optimist club and a sprint coach for the Canadian Olympic team] isn't a scientist, but he knows what's happening."
Issajenko told the Star she had firsthand knowledge that Johnson was receiving steroids from Astaphan from 1984 to '86, but that "Ben was going on his own to Jamie after that." She also said that Astaphan was administering steroids to Johnson when Johnson set the 100-meter world mark at the 1987 World Championships in Rome, although Johnson did not test positive at that meet.
Ever since Sept. 26, when Johnson was stripped of his Olympic gold medal in the 100, he and his associates have stonewalled. Johnson said he never knowingly took steroids. Astaphan reportedly said he treated Johnson with "natural" steroids and ginseng and sarsaparilla roots. Francis said the Olympic test result "defied all logic" and was the result of "deliberate manipulation of the testing process." Issajenko herself accused the Canadian team's physiotherapist of having put steroids in the rubbing compound he used to massage her and Johnson, a charge she retracted 15 minutes after she had made it. "I was trying to help him, but I didn't know what kind of games he's playing," she said to the Star.
Issajenko's change of heart came as sympathy for Johnson grew both in Canada and in Jamaica, where he was born. While Johnson remained quiet, fingers were being pointed at his friends Francis and Astaphan. "When you play games, you live by codes," Issajenko told the Sun. "If you make a mistake or something goes wrong, you accept the consequences. You don't back down and slaughter the people you were in league with from the beginning."
"Ben thought that all this was going to go away," says Ross Earl, the founder of the Mazda Optimist club and its president and chief booster. "The tack his lawyers were taking was to point at Jamie and Charlie. Angella just got tired of that.... A lot will come to light from this, and that's for the better. They have to find a way to either totally control the drug situation, or else totally not control it."
The revelations are having a ripple effect. Now Angela Bailey, a sprinter who has frequently run in Issajenko's shadow, because, she claims, she doesn't use steroids, has added her bit. Bailey told the Star that she has been ostracized by fellow athletes for her stand against drugs and that in 1983, a group of coaches, including Francis, told her she "should shut up and get on with business."
Joe Grosswiler, a 32-year-old beer distributor from Kalispell, Mont., is a four handicapper who has been playing golf since he was 10. On Oct. 1, during a charity tournament at the Buffalo Hill Golf Course in Kalispell, Grosswiler got the second hole in one of his life on the par-3, 128-yard 16th. He hit a wedge shot that just cleared a bunker in front of the green, then rolled up onto the putting surface and into the cup.