The 61-year-old Canadian won Olympic bronze in the 4x100m relay in Los Angeles with Ben Johnson, the training partner who brought him down with his positive in the 100-meter dash in Seoul 88.
Desai Williams, the man who appears in one of the most repeated images in the history of athletics, has died. It was September 24, 1988, noon in Seoul, dawn in Spain, when the Canadian Ben Johnson beat Carl Lewis and the world record for the 100-meter dash with 9.79s, a gold that he was going to lose hours later after a positive by stanozolol, an anabolic steroid, in one of those doping scandals that marked a before and after in the persecution of cheating and in the credibility of the sport.
Before the media hurricane, Williams was there, hugging Johnson, and wearing the Canadian flag. He was a secondary in the final. She was 6th with 10.11s, the fastest hectometer in the life of a man who never fell below 10 seconds but who was part of what was later called ‘the dirtiest race in history, that is how the journalist titled his book about her British Richard Moore, who also died a few days ago at just 48 years old.
More than half of the finalists were marked by cheating, including Williams himself, who was part of Charlie Francis and Dr. Jamie Astaphan’s Scarborough Optimists Track Club where ‘Big Ben’ trained, and fell with him. In March 1989, in the semifinals of the World Indoor Championships in Budapest, he gave his last race.
Williams, who was born in 1959 on the island of Saint Kitts, and Nevis, who would later give birth to Kim Collins, world champion in the 100 meters in 2003, always competed as a Canadian. He went from soccer to athletics and could already be an Olympian in Moscow in 1980, but the boycott of his country prevented it. After breaking the Canadian record in the 200 meters, he would seize the next Olympic opportunity. In Los Angeles 84 he climbed to the third place on the podium of the 4x100m relay along with Tony Sharpe, Sterling Hinds, and, of course, Ben Johnson, to whom he always linked his career.
After athletics, he still had the opportunity to work for the Red Cross, work in marketing in Toronto and be a coach, but in 2015 he was banned for life by the country’s federation for violating sexual harassment regulations. This Tuesday he died at the age of 61. We are trying to reveal the cause of death and will update you as we get to know.