In another case, it appears that Farnum’s profile wasn’t quite low enough. Two years ago, a former employee of Omega Nutrition Canada, a Vancouver company that markets herbal supplements under Farnum’s name and uses him as a spiritual counsellor, filed a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal complaint against the firm and the guru. The woman alleged she had been let go from her job as an executive assistant to the company president after she failed to accept Farnum’s diagnosis that she suffered from depression. A confidential settlement was reached before the dispute was adjudicated.
What is clear is that those who do believe in Farnum’s gifts see no limits to his God-given powers. In the reception area, a new patient, Marsha, talks about how her neck pain—a chronic complaint since a car accident 17 years ago—disappeared after just one session. Again, it all has to do with past lives, says Farnum. “Marsha was once aborted as a fetus. That’s were the pain came from.”
Ben Johnson fixes me with a stare that lasts for so long that I am compelled to ask whether he wants a drum roll. “The answer you are looking for,” he says finally, “is André Jackson.”
Truth be told, this is not a surprise. Johnson and Charlie Francis began suggesting someone had spiked his post-race beer almost the moment he tested positive back in Seoul. And for a while, a great many Canadians wanted to believe him, especially when it emerged that the mystery man was a friend of his hated U.S. rival Carl Lewis. An Edmonton businessman even offered a $10,000 payment if “Mr. X” would agree to testify at the Dubin inquiry into steroids in sport. The man never took up his offer. The inquiry examined the claim, but ultimately dismissed it, concluding the sprinter had simply been undone by a mislabelled vial of steroids—injecting stanozolol, which took 28 days to clear the system, instead of his usual furazabol, which took 14.
In Lewis’s 1990 autobiography Inside Track, the nine-time Olympic gold medallist, who continues to be dogged by allegations of his own performance-enhancing drug use, devoted two chapters to Johnson and Seoul. He confirmed Jackson was in the doping control area after the race, even including photos of his friend and his nemesis grinning for the camera. Lewis was a little vague about his exact relationship with Jackson, nicknamed “Action,” describing him only as a family friend. As for how he came to be in the room, Lewis writes he had no idea. “But I’m never surprised when André shows up, no matter where it is, floating around doing whatever he wants, being in places he doesn’t belong. Some people just have that knack.”
Interest in the mystery man dwindled after Johnson failed a second doping test in 1993, and was handed a lifetime ban. But a decade later, the tale began to pop up again, mostly in the British press. Since then, Johnson has identified Jackson as the saboteur on a number of occasions, going so far as to allege he had obtained a taped confession.
Today, the sprinter is a little more circumspect. “We have a tape, but somehow . . . ” he trails off. Farnum clarifies that they have a confession with a witness. The face-to-face meeting is said to have taken place in Los Angeles in September 2004. “He said the main reason was because of the shoe sponsors,” says Johnson. Was Lewis privy to the beer-spiking? “Say it wasn’t necessarily on behalf of Carl Lewis,” Farnum stage whispers from the couch.
The bigger mystery might be why Jackson has never taken legal action. He hardly lacks the means. Little is available about his background, but he does appear to be a very wealthy man. After founding a diamond company in the mid-1980s, he became a close adviser to the late Zairean dictator Mobuto Sese Seko. Since 1999, Jackson has been chairman of the African Diamond Council, and at the forefront of the fight against blood diamonds. Car blogs identify him as the owner of the world’s most expensive sports car, a one-of-a-kind 700 h.p. Maybach Exelero, purchased for US$8 million. Sometimes he lets his friend Jay-Z drive it.
In an email to Maclean’s, Jackson refused an interview request. “I’ve never felt compelled to ever defend myself regarding this issue.” he wrote. “Apart from what really took place inside the drug testing room in Seoul, it doesn’t really amend the string of events that took place following his positive drug test in 1988.”
Johnson says he doesn’t fear Jackson. He is ready for “everything to come out.” It soon becomes clear that the disgraced sprinter again sees God’s hand at play. The weekend he met with Jackson, he says, was the weekend his mother died. He had taken a chance and flown to L.A. in hopes of clearing the family name. He was preparing to return home, “confession” obtained, when Johnson’s sister called to break the news. “My mom always said I won’t live to see this day, but the time will come when you will tell the true story that happened,” Johnson says. “I had to lose one to gain another, to get this major answer.”
Then there’s the other spirit he feels is watching over him—Charlie Francis’s. When his long-time coach died of cancer this past May, Ben was at his side. In his last weeks, they talked a bit about what happened in Seoul. Johnson says his coach remained convinced to the end that somebody had messed with their golden plans.
Above all, Johnson is bitter about how no one seems to remember him for anything else. How his charity work, like raising money for AIDS orphans in Africa, gets overlooked. And the knocks he still takes in the media. “Every time there is a positive test in the world, doesn’t matter where, they mention Ben Johnson’s name. This is why I have to speak the truth.” Few people could endure what he has for the past 22 years. “I gave them my heart and they took it out,” he says. “Oh yes, oh yes, they will pay for that. Not in this life, but maybe when their soul is gone, maybe they will be facing God.” Karmic payback is due. After all, Ben Johnson has been waiting 7,000 years.
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