MICHAEL JOHNSON voluntarily handed back his Olympic gold medal after a drugs controversy engulfed his teammates, an unearthed account shows.
The American former sprinter is one of the BBC’s pundits for this year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which were delayed from last year due to COVID-19. Michael, 53, has been analysing athletics highlights for the broadcaster, alongside fellow former athlete Denise Lewis and presenter Gabby Logan. The US legend represented his country at the Olympics in Barcelona in 1992, Atlanta in 1996, and Sydney in 2000, before hanging up his running shoes a year later and taking up a punditry role at the BBC.
The athlete broke world records for the 200 metres, 400 metres and 4×400 metres relay.
He is known for his no-nonsense punditry style, having harshly criticised Team GB’s Zharnel Hughes at the Tokyo Games for his false start in the 100 metres, which saw him disqualified.
However, Michael has also taken a tough approach to his own career, and famously handed back the relay gold medal he won at the Sydney Games.
The sprinter shocked the athletics world when he took the extraordinary step of giving back the award after a drug doping scandal hit the USA team.
He admitted the medal had been “tainted” by a fellow athlete using performance-enhancing drugs and added that he had been “naive” in his defence of athletics in recent years.
He said: “I know that the medal was not fairly won and that it is dirty and so I have moved it from the location where I have always kept my medals because it doesn’t belong there.
“And it doesn’t belong to me, so I will be returning it to the IOC [International Olympic Committee] because I don’t want it. It was not won fairly. I am deeply disappointed and saddened.”
His decision was welcomed by the International Association of Athletics Federations, which has since been rebranded as World Athletics.
A spokesman for the governing body said at the time: “By taking this courageous step, Michael has sent an important message about the place of doping in sport. Michael has done the right thing.”
Michael’s fellow US relay star, Antonio Pettigrew, part of the gold-winning Sydney team, had admitted he had been using steroids since 1997.
His admission came during the trial of former US track coach, Trevor Graham, who was sentenced to one year of house arrest and five years of probation after he was found to have lied to a federal agent during a drugs investigation.
After Pettigrew admitted using drugs, the entire relay team, which also included Alvin and Calvin Harrison, were stripped of their gold medals.
Another sprinter, Jerome Young, who was part of the US relay squad in Sydney but didn’t compete in the final, was also stripped of the gold he won after it was found he had previously used steroids.
In an article for the Daily Telegraph, Michael said he was “disappointed” in his teammate and friend, Antonio, and in the sport of athletics.
He said the news he cheated “shocked me like no other drug-related story.”
He added: “I now realise that most of the athletes using drugs probably knew who else was using drugs.”