Continuous, and often astonishing, improvement has characterized the sport in the 20th cent. Performances once considered unattainable, such as the 4-minute mile (first achieved in 1954 by Roger Bannister, the 8-ft (2.44-m) high jump (achieved by Javier Sotomayor in 1993), and the 20-ft (6.1-m) pole vault (achieved in 1994 by Sergey Bubka) are especially well known. Since the 1970s, many have questioned whether some record-setting achievements have been produced with the aid of performance-enhancing drugs or other unsanctioned techniques. Testing of athletes has therefore become standard, and results have occasionally been nullified, as when Canada's Ben Johnson lost his world record and 1988 Olympic gold medal for the 100-m race after tests detected anabolic steroids in his system.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.