Florence Griffith Joyner (1959-1998) was a popular American runner also known as Flo Jo to her fans. A largely circumstantial case suggests that Flo Jo abused performance enhancing drugs before the 1988 Seoul Olympics. As a runner, I am very suspicious of the too-good-to-be-true story of Florence Griffith Joyner:

  • Joyner went from being out of shape and 20 pounds overweight to olympic sprinting form in a very short time.
  • Joyner was incredibly muscular, all over her body (i.e., not just her legs).
  • Joyner broke an all-time women's record, and by a lot. She ran 100m in 10.49 seconds. To this day no woman has run that distance in under 10.60 seconds.
  • Joyner did not know how to run properly, according to the editor of a running magazine who went jogging with her.
  • Joyner gave up running immediately after the 1988 Olympics.
  • Joyner died of a heart condition at age 38. Heart failures at so young an age are a not uncommon symptom of anabolic steroid abuse.

Because the IOC says Joyner never failed a drug test, we will never know for sure. An absence of evidence is not evidence of absence; after all, people beat drug tests. And some treatments, such as growth hormone, are not conventionally detectable. Conspiracy theorists note that she never raced after Seoul, and that the IOC is not exactly immune to corrupt practices. Did some secret deal happen to spare Joyner the humiliation and make an example of the less marketable Ben Johnson instead?

African American track athlete. Flo Jo won three gold medals and one silver medal at the 1988 Olympic Games. Her beauty , flamboyant style --she wore super long nails and colorful one-legged outfits-- and unmatched speed made her a superstar in the 1980s. At the height of her popularity she appeared on tv shows, wrote books and had a fashion doll made in her likeness. Before her death of a heart seizure in 1998, Florence Griffith Joyner was considered the ideal American women encompassing the perfect balance of strength and beauty.

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