Jean Charest had no way of knowing how profoundly the 1988 Olympic 100-metre men’s final would shape sport in Canada, but he can clearly recall the anticipation he felt 30 years ago as Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson prepared to race in Seoul.
Three decades on, with Russia at the centre of the world’s biggest doping scandal, it’s easy to forget that Canada once made international headlines for cheating.
In 1988, the prospect of a Canadian track star beating American powerhouse Carl Lewi was unbelievable, Charest says. “You couldn’t construct a story like this.”
As the rookie minister of state for fitness and amateur sports under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Charest had just returned from a whirlwind trip to South Korea for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Summer Games in Seoul.
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As Charest watched from home in Ottawa, his deputy, Lyle McKosky, who had stayed behind as the leading Canadian government representative in Seoul, was seated about 10 rows above the finish line.
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