It was an extraordinary 96 hours. The excitement began in Seoul at 5 a.m. on Sept. 27 when assistant managing editor Jerry Kirshenbaum, head of SI's 64-member team at the Summer Olympics, learned that sprinter Ben Johnson of Canada was about to be stripped of his gold medal in the 100 meters. The Oct. 3 issue of ST was ready to go, but the presses were held to allow Kirshenbaum, senior editor Myra Gelband and our Olympic coordinator. Young Ja Yoon, to mobilize their forces in Seoul.
Within minutes SI reporters and photographers were on the story. By the time the issue closed, nine hours past deadline, SI staffers had pulled off several coups. Writer-reporter Richard Demak was the first journalist to interview Dr. Park Jong Sei, director of the Olympic Doping Control Center, about Johnson's positive test for anabolic steroids. Meanwhile senior writer Kenny Moore developed information that led to our special report, written by Moore and senior writer William Oscar Johnson, which revealed that Ben Johnson used steroids in May on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts.
Also on the case were reporter Shelley Smith and photographer John Iacono. They rushed to Kimpo airport to cover Johnson's departure from Korea and, on learning that Johnson was booked on a flight to New York, bought tickets and followed him onto the plane. During the flight, Smith sat with Johnson for 45 minutes and obtained the first one-on-one interview with him since he had come to grief in Seoul (page 36).
Neither Smith nor Iacono brought any luggage on the flight. Once in New York, Iacono picked up a change of clothing at his house in nearby Huntington, L.I., but Smith, who lives in Tokyo, had to buy hers. Less than 24 hours later, the twosome were on a plane back to Seoul. Said Smith of the 13,750-mile round trip, "Bloomingdale's was great, but I'm not sure it's worth spending 30 hours in the air to shop there."
October 9, 1988
More Olympic drama: Last Thursday 3,000 color slides, the best of three days of shooting by SI's nine photographers in Seoul, were stolen outside the Time & Life Building in Manhattan from a delivery van that had just brought them from JFK airport. While director of photography Joe Marshall and his deputy in Seoul, Phil Jache, scrambled to come up with replacement photos, news reports about the theft began to appear. SPORTS (UN)ILLUSTRATED, read a front-page headline in the New York Post.
As much as the slides meant to the magazine, they were clearly of little value to the thieves, who discarded them six blocks from the site of the theft. A messenger from another company found the photos, took them home and, on learning of the theft the next day, returned the slides. And so we remain very much SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.