Ben Johnson: America will forgive Lance Armstrong


Former legendary sprinter Ben Johnson believes fellow drug cheat Lance Armstrong can be forgiven and loved again by the American public. Former cyclist Armstrong admitted for the first time to taking drugs during his career in an interview with Oprah Winfrey shown last week. Johnson, who was banned for taking steroids at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, has some sympathy for Armstrong.

"American people will forgive him," the Canadian athlete said. "I don't think it will be tough for him to make a living. I hope he can move on and do good things. If he can find some way to make a living he will be fine. I think people will judge him differently, based on what he did for humanity and for cancer."

Last year Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles after being labelled a "serial cheat" by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (Usada). Usada said that Armstrong's USPS/Discovery Channel professional cycling team operated the "most sophisticated, professional and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen".

In the first part of the interview with Oprah Winfrey, Armstrong finally admitted he used performance-enhancing drugs during all seven of his Tour de France wins after denying for more than 10 years. He also questioned whether he deserves what he describes as his "death penalty" punishment which means he is banned from all sports because of his use of performance-enhancing drugs. Armstrong could face an examination of his financial power with a Texan company planning to file a lawsuit next week to recoup $12m from him in relation to bonuses paid for wins in three of his Tour victories.

Ben Johnson won the 100m at the 1988 Seoul Olympics in a world record 9.79 seconds but was stripped of the title three days later after it was revealed he had failed a doping test. He admitted the offence a year later at a Canadian government investigation, then returned to the sport in 1991 but was found guilty of doping again in 1993. The ban was then overturned in 1999 and Johnson was given leave to appeal but he failed a further test in late 1999.

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