U.S. sprinter Carl Lewis said Thursday on Capitol Hill he believes "at least five to 10" Olympic medals last summer were awarded to track and field athletes who had used steroids, although he refused to name any names or give nationalities or events.
"To add to that, some of them were gold medals, definitely," he said.Speaking to members of the House Judiciary Committee's crime subcommittee, Lewis said it's not difficult to tell when athletes have been taking steroids, so he made his remarks with some conviction, actually counting aloud for several seconds before giving congressmen the number of medals won by athletes he believes used steroids. There were 114 individual medals awarded in track and field in Seoul and another 12 in four relays.
The congressmen are considering legislation sponsored by Rep. Pete Stark, D.-Calif., that would forbid the mail-order sale of steroids from Canada and Mexico to the United States.
After the hearing, Lewis balked when asked to embellish his statements.
"I don't think there's really any need to do it," Lewis said. "Someone asked me an opinion and I just gave what I thought. I said five to 10. That's just what I thought."
He said he was speaking solely about track and field athletes. "I don't really know much about the other sports," Lewis said as he rushed through a hallway of the Rayburn House Office Building on his way to catch a cab to National Airport.
He said he included Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson in his calculations; Johnson was stripped of his gold medal in the 100 meters after he tested positive for a steroid, and Lewis was declared the winner. Johnson's situation provoked a national outcry in Canada and launched the on-going drug inquiry that has sparked considerable controversy throughout the world.
At about the same time Lewis was testifying before the congressional subcommittee, Jamie Astaphan, Johnson's doctor, was telling Canadian Press that "every athlete in Seoul" was on steroids.
"If there was any athlete not on them, they were probably from Sri Lanka or Timbuktoo or some other Godforsaken place," Astaphan said in an interview from the Caribbean island of St. Kitts.
Lewis, unaware of Astaphan's comments, told the subcommittee that "most U.S. athletes are not using steroids."
But those from the United States and other nations who do use steroids incurred Lewis' wrath.
"This is a tremendous problem and it's growing by leaps and bounds," he said. "It's at every level and in every aspect of sports society. We have to fight it at every level, from the world-class level where athletes, in essence, are creating a fraud on the world (with their drug-assisted records). They're lying and they're cheating and they're hurting others."
As for Johnson, Lewis said: "Ben Johnson would not have been in the finals and probably would not have been on the Olympic team had he not taken steroids.