TORONTO, SEPT. 28 -- Ben Johnson, whose two-year suspension for steroid use expired Tuesday, was reinstated by the executive committee of the Canadian Olympic Association today.
Johnson, who had his Olympic gold medal and world record for the 100 meters stripped during the 1988 Seoul Games after he tested positive for steroids, was reinstated by a 9 to 3 vote and now is eligible to compete on teams representing Canada, including those in the 1992 Olympics.
"It's our feeling that the public disgrace Ben has suffered the past two years is unprecedented," COA President Carol Anne Letheren said. "We believe he's suffered enough."
In the summer, the Canadian federal government upheld its lifetime ban on Johnson receiving government funding -- about $600 a month -- but left it to the COA to decide whether the sprinter could represent the country at international events.
Ed Futerman, Johnson's lawyer, said he was grateful the sprinter, born in Jamaica and raised in Canada, was getting a second chance.
"It's been a very difficult two years for Ben and his family," Futerman said. "This is the culmination of a great deal of hope and prayer."
Johnson, who is training in Tempe, Ariz., could not be reached for comment.
"Ben has recognized what he did was wrong and has a strong desire to redeem himself," Letheren said at a news conference. "We believe the penalties imposed by the ITFA and Athletics Canada were sufficient. If he meets the performance standards and if he is nominated to the COA by Athletics Canada, then he will be named to the Olympic team."
Letheren said Johnson's case elicited sympathy from the executive committee. She cited Johnson's outspoken stand against performance-enhacncing drugs and said the sprinter's current advisers have his best interests at heart.
Johnson recently said he's still not in good shape and won't race until an indoor meet in Hamilton, Ontario, on Jan. 11.
On Sept. 24, 1988, Johnson won the Olympic 100 meters in a world-record 9.79 seconds, beating Carl Lewis by more than a step. But two days later he tested positive for stanazolol, a banned anobolic steroid that helps build muscle bulk and allows athletes to overcome normal training injuries more quickly. He was stripped of the gold medal and the world record and left Seoul in disgrace.
Johnson at first denied using drugs, but testified last year at a Canadian federal inquiry that he had been on a steroid program since 1981.
That forced the IAAF, track and field's international governing body, to strip Johnson of the world-record time of 9.83 he ran at the world championships in Rome in September 1987. Johnson passed a drug test after that meet.
The world record now is the 9.92 recorded by Lewis in Seoul.
Since he's been back in training, Johnson has taken and passed five drug tests, some with 36 hours notice and some with none. He has said his goal is to win a drug-free gold medal at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.