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Johnson banned for life after testing positive for drugs

PARIS -- Canada's Ben Johnson, the disgraced sprinter of the 1988 Seoul Olympics who lost his gold medal because of drug use, was banned from track and field competition for life by the International Amateur Athletic Federation Friday for again failing a drug test.

Less than four years after leaving Seoul in shame following a positive drug test after his world record performance in the 100 meters, Johnson tested positive on a drug test administered at an indoor track and field meet Jan. 17 in Montreal.

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Johnson returned to track competition in 1991 after serving a two- year suspension for his Seoul offense. He was also stripped of his gold medal.

Only last month, Johnson warned in a German TV interview that drug- taking was still rife among athletes while swearing that he himself was 'clean' and that his career was 'a long way from over'.

Friday's decision was announced by IAAF General Secretary Istvan Gyulai after a meeting of the IAAF's five-man drug commission under the chairmanship of Sweden's Arne Ljungqvist.

'After extensive and thorough investigation, the commission unanimously determined that Ben Johnson tested positive after the meeting in Montreal on Jan. 17,' Ljungqvist said. 'A sample from the athlete contained an excessive level of testosterone.'

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The IAAF Doping Commission said in a statement the ban will hold pending a hearing before the Canadian Athletic Federation, considered only a formality.

'The Commission is sad to report that this man is guilty. We have confirmed the data and it is unfortunately very clear,' Ljungqvist said.

The suspension climaxed a three-week investigation following the meet in Montreal. The IAAF's doping commission unanimously determined Johnson tested positive for testosterone in a urine test.

Johnson's Toronto lawyers have reportedly said they talked with the sprinter, but did not know if he would appeal the IAAF decision.

Canada's minister of state for youth, fitness and amateur sport also banned Johnson for life and revoked his funding in the wake of the IAAF decision.

'It is with extreme regret that I have learned from the Canadian Centre for Drug-Free Sport of this doping infraction confirmed by the IAAF,' said Pierre Cadieux in a statement issued from Mexico City.

Cadieux said Canada is 'recognized as a world leader in anti-doping' because of initiatives, such as a wide ranging federal government inquiry, it took in the wake of Johnson's steroid scandal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

'Despite such efforts, we still have individuals who choose to violate the values and rules of sport and thereby damage the very integrity and essence of sport,' Cadieux said.

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Testosterone is a steroid-related substance enabling athletes to train harder and recover more quickly.

Word of Johnson's failed drug test leaked out two days ago and Canadian officials, fearful of the negative publicity, were encouraging Johnson to resign before next week's world indoor championships in Toronto.

Johnson was tested three times during a six-day period in January, following meets in Hamilton, Ontario, Montreal and Toronto. On Wednesday, the Toronto Star reported that in these tests Johnson showed a high level of Testosterone.

In a statement released Wednesday by the law firm McMillan-Binch, Johnson immediately denied having taken testosterone or any other drug.

'Mr. Johnson denies taking any prohibited substance or engaging in any improper practice since his return to competition,' the statement said.

His manager in Toronto, Kameel Azan, told reporters earlier this week that his client had no intention of quitting the sport.

Since his return to competition his times have slowly improved, although he has not come close to the 9.79 time he recorded in the 100 meters at Seoul.

Although he did not qualify for the Canadian national team competing in the world indoor championships, he won a 50-meter race in France last month in a time of 5.65, only four one-hundredths of a second off the world record.

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