That strange little detail has always stuck with me, but I didn’t dwell on it at the time because a distraction in the form of Johnson’s stablemate, Mark McKoy, ambled past and blew my mind. If Johnson’s physique was impressive, McKoy’s was ripped to shreds astonishing. That he would win the Olympic 110m hurdles crown at Barcelona in 1992 came as no surprise to me. The ensuing drug revelations even less so.
C’est la vie in track and field.
The other great postcard from that summer of ’88 was my debut for the Irish junior athletics squad. Our captain was a great guy called Peter Sinclair and he kindly picked me up and we drove the 2 hours to Dublin airport together. Peter was a 400 meter specialist and highly ranked in Europe in what would be his last year at junior level. He had already competed at the 1987 World Championships in the senior 4x400m relay.
Between navigating the potholes du jour and a machine gun wielding Irish Special Services unit who looked just as surprised to see us in our gaudy green kit, Peter neatly summed up his future intentions.
“Next year in the seniors, unless I take something I won’t count (at world class international level). So, I won’t count.”
This casual acceptance of how things were in the world seemed remarkable to me at the time but the fact is, any athlete (myself included) from that era could probably point you to athletes who doped and were never caught.
This is the first lens through which I see the latest furore over Chris Froome and Team SKY at the Tour de France. That there are people out there in the business of win at all costs should surprise no-one.
That’s life. And that's elite sport.
But things have moved on - both in testing procedures and research - and performance assistance of a Pharmaceutical-esque nature does not always mean the use of a banned substance any more.
Ketone esters have been proven by the University of Oxford to significantly (small % improvements are dramatic in endurance events) improve elite athletic performance in world class rowers.
They are not banned by WADA; they are too damned expensive for all but the very highest paid athletes, and they have recently been used by elite cyclists winning world class events.
In December of last year I wrote the following in the blog "5 Trends for 2015 and the rise of the Ketogans" -
“The appreciation for ketones as an energy, performance and repair resource for the body will soar in 2015. Steve Phinney's time is upon us; Jeff Volek's FASTER study will fire the first dart and Dominic D'Agostino's astounding military funded research has the capacity to propel the ketone message to new heights”
My gut tells me SKY - and Froome - are using ketones.
If they are, then the walls of the carb loading message will take an unmerciful battering before they are breached.
We live in interesting times.....