Ben Johnson spent his homecoming in seclusion, without the Olympic gold medal and the hero's welcome, as Canadians bemoaned the fate of the sprinter who failed the drug test.
Returning to Canada on Tuesday, Johnson, 26, dodged reporters and the public, refusing to talk about the illegal, muscle-building steroid Stanzolol found in his system after he won the 100-meter dash as the world's fastest human.But on the flight from South Korea, he denied using the drugs even though Olympic officials said the results were indisputable.
"I got nothing to hide," Johnson told The Boston Globe during the flight to New York, where he then boarded another plane for Canada. "I don't want to tell no names, but somebody's smiling today."
"It's not the only thing in life to win a gold medal," Johnson said. "I still have my parents. My family still loves me."
Stripped of the gold and banned for life from Canadian teams, Johnson cried in the back of a limousine that whisked him to his mother's home in suburban Toronto after the grueling trip from Seoul.
"There's no gold now, just disappointment," said Boyd Plaxton, 26, of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, one of 200 people on hand when Johnson's plane landed. "If he had come home with the gold intact, there would have been a million people here," Plaxton said.
Chaos spoiled a gilt-edged moment for a man who had run 100 meters in the fastest time ever, 9.79 seconds.
Johnson, surrounded by a phalanx of security guards, ducked into a car and made a mad dash for the door when he arrived at the house. But he apparently forgot his key and had to return 20 minutes later with his shirt over his head.
Johnson spent the 1-hour, 40-minute flight from New York in the plane's cockpit to avoid reporters.
On the way to New York, however, he stayed in the passenger cabin, appearing calm throughout the flight, the Globe said.
As passengers realized who he was, some sought autographs. A group of flight attendants swarmed around Johnson for a photo.
"First I was shocked, but after a while, I don't care," Johnson said when asked what he felt after he was informed he had failed the drug test.
In Canada, a parade in his adopted hometown was canceled, and promoters backed out of deals or announced their ties with the sprinter would expire quietly.
Sports Minister Jean Charest said Johnson had tested negative for drugs in August and had passed eight tests in two years. He called the stripping of the medal a "national embarrassment."
Johnson's family and close friends denied he took steroids
"I know my son doesn't take drugs. I know he hasn't done it. I know it," said his father, Ben Johnson Sr., from Falmouth, Jamaica, in an interview with the Toronto Globe and Mail.
"Ben loved Mom too much to discredit her in any way," said his sister, Claire Rodney, of suburban Toronto.
Johnson had dedicated his gold to his mother, Gloria, and the Canadian people. It was surrendered to Canadian Olympic officials before the family left South Korea on Monday.
In Montreal, Johnson's fans said they were disappointed.
"The last flicker of hope just died," said Danny Planetta, who was watching TV at a bar when he heard Monday night that Johnson had tested positive for steroids.
"When he won, we won and we were raving about it. The guy was a hero and now he is just a big disappointment."