Ben Johnson, however, was determined to make a comeback, and five years later he won a fifty meters race in France but was again found to have taken banned drugs. This time he was barred for life; a terrible disappointment for everyone who loved the sport!

In the Seoul race- now dubbed as the ‘Dirtiest race in history’- Lewis got the gold, but he had been so obsessive of Ben Johnson that footage of the race showed he had run out of his lane twice which should have led to his automatic disqualification. Moreover, he had admitted having tested positive during the trials before the Olympics. Yet here was- a legitimate champion! Even Linford Christie, the silver medallist in that race was ten years later banned for taking steroids.

Recently Ben Johnson released his autobiography called, ‘From Seoul to Soul’ and my first assumption was it must be a self-reflective book; I imagined Ben repenting for his shameful acts. Painfully, however, it’s an outright attack on Lewis with Ben claiming that their rivalry dates back to four thousand years during the Egyptian era where Lewis and his coach in their previous birth had plotted to destroy the Pharaoh Ben Johnson!

Real heroes ignored

It’s a tragedy that the news-hungry media and the millions of viewers feast on scandals while hardly anyone knows the noble heroes at Spokane who ran to celebrate life! Shakespeare penned it brilliantly in Julius Caeser that the evil that men do lives after them whereas the good is often buried with their bones!

In the Seoul Olympics’ murky episode, a real hero- Calvin Smith-was ignored. The shy and unassuming Calvin who got a bronze medal in that race was the only athlete in the top five who in his entire career had never been tainted with doping controversy; he played clean and had even won gold earlier for his country. Yet, hardly anyone knows him while Lewis and Johnson have grabbed headlines for decades. It’s time to remind ourselves what Shakespeare said, “No legacy is as rich as honesty.”

What’s more important for an athlete- to compete with himself or with others? What’s more critical for us- to live our lives according to our vision or worry about others’ plotting against us? We center our lives often on our enemies and the demons out there, while we ignore the eternal reality within us. Are we not accountable to our own conscience first? Can we afford to abandon principles; how could we turn deaf to our own inner voice?

Can we get true to our own souls, and uphold principles? If no, we may get distracted by the glamour and fame of this world that could even compel us to cheat. If however, we decide to live in harmony with values, the sensation-hungry media- like it ignored Calvin Smith- may not sing our glories. Still, the universal laws would note our dedication.

Environmentalist David Brower’s words remind us of our role during our brief, yet significant sojourn in this planet: “We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” It’s now we need to make a choice of our aspiration- the glamour of this world or to contribute to another’s well-being and leave behind a legacy of pure goodness- the stuff that real champions are made of!

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