Athletics: Johnson retires without appeal

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The Independent Online
ONE of the most controversial careers in athletics came to an end yesterday as Ben Johnson, suspended for life on Friday after a second positive drug test, announced that he would he would not appeal against the ruling.

He maintained nevertheless that he had taken no banned performance-enhancing substances since returning from his original two-year suspension in 1991, imposed after the steroid, Stanozolol, had been detected in his urine following victory in the 1988 Olympic 100 metres final.

At a news conference which Johnson did not attend, his lawyers said the sprinter decided not to appeal against a finding of excessive testosterone levels - an indicator of steroid abuse - at an indoor meeting on 17 January because, at 31, his years left in the sport would be limited and because of the cost of fighting the suspension.

'I wish today to announce my retirement from competitive running,' Johnson's statement said. 'I had hoped not to end my career this way. Although I have been advised by my counsel and other advisors that I have a strong case for an appeal, I have decided not to pursue that appeal having regard to my age, the cost of such an appeal and my obligations to my family.

'I have had a long career in track. I experienced success and failure. I said after the Seoul Olympics that I would come back and compete clean. I know that I did.'

The statement was welcome news to the International Amateur Athletic Federation, which is embroiled in high-profile disputes over drug suspensions with Butch Reynolds, the world 400 metres record-holder, and Katrin Krabbe, the double world sprint champion. 'It's a relief that this case is not going to go to the stages the other ones have,' an IAAF spokeswoman said last night.

One of Johnson's lawyers, David Kent, said the sprinter made the decision at a Saturday meeting at Kent's home attended by the sprinter, his mother Gloria, Kent, and Johnson's other lawyer, Terrence O'Sullivan.

O'Sullivan estimated it would cost Johnson between dollars 60,000 ( pounds 42,000) and dollars 100,000 to fight the suspension and noted that there are no provisions for any reimbursements of costs by either the IAAF or Athletics Canada, even if the sprinter won his appeal.

'Were he a younger man with the prospects of a longer career ahead of him and the ability to earn back the considerable sums that this appeal process would cost him, his decision would have been to appeal,' O'Sullivan said.

'Mr Johnson believes he has a responsibility to use his remaining resources in a manner which will best benefit his family.'