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Seoul 1988 - Overview

High-profile dope cheat tarnishes Olympic spirit

The morning after Ben Johnson's blistering 100m dash set a new world record of 9.79 seconds and left the likes of Carl Lewis trailing in his wake at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, the Canadian was revealed as a drug cheat.

Johnson was eventually stripped of his gold and received a hefty ban, but the real damage was the dent left in the event's credibility and subsequent cynical scrutiny from fans and anti-doping agencies which has faced record-setting athletes ever since.

Other than the Johnson scandal the Games were a relative success.

After Moscow and Los Angeles had been devalued by boycotts, all the big guns were present when proceedings began in South Korea. North Korea boycotted in protest over not gaining co-organization rights, and the only other notable absentees were Cuba and Ethiopia.

So the events themselves were fiercely competitive with the U.S., the Soviet Union and East Germany leading the medal charge.

Total diver

In track and field the U.S. bagged the lion's share of awards, its efforts spearheaded by Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who won the long jump and heptathlon.

Also for the U.S., the late Florence Griffith-Joyner exploded toward the 100m and 200m titles.

Carl Lewis added three more titles to his haul, winning the 100m, long jump and 4x100m, while Roger Kingdom won the 110m hurdles as the U.S. took 12 medals in track and field.

Pole-vaulting czar Sergei Bubka, from the Ukraine, won a deserved gold after having missed out on the Games because of politics four years earlier.

In the pool there was a battle royale for the gold. It ended with East Germany's Kristin Otto pillaging six gold medals and American Matt Biondi taking five.

Greg Louganis, the "total diver," won gold on both the springboard and platform for the second successive Olympiad after cracking his head open on the springboard in qualifying.

It was later revealed he was HIV-positive at the time.

The Americans lost the basketball title to the Soviets again, a stunning repeat of the 1972 defeat, but managed to win the volleyball gold.

However the Soviets easily won the overall medal title, helped by 10 track and field golds, nine in gymnastics and eight in wrestling.

East Germany came second after winning eight gold medals in rowing and 11 in swimming.

It was the last time the Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic ever competed under those names as the Communist bloc collapsed in 1990 with the symbolic fall of the Berlin Wall.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.

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