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Ben Johnson doc “9.79*” and the 1988 controversy

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After witnessing Usain Bolt run 9.58, 9.63, and 9.69 in the 100m, and seeing six other men dip below the 9.80 mark since Beijing four years ago, it’s becoming more and more difficult to remember a time when just breaking 10 seconds was an incredible feat.

But before the 1988 Seoul Games, 9.83 was the benchmark, set by Canadian specimen Ben Johnson who pumped his imposing frame to victory at the ’87 world championships in Rome. A year later, convicted of doping and stripped of his gold medal, he was made an example and a pariah by the IOC.

Johnson’s story is told in the documentary “9.79*,” premiering Tuesday at 8pm EDT on ESPN.  But the film is really the story of two men: Johnson and American hero Carl Lewis, both of whom – the film hints – used every bit of human will and scientific assistance to fight for the title of “worlds fastest man.”

And while it’s Johnson and his performance-enhanced 9.79 that are once again clearly under the microscope, it’s Lewis’s bitter protest, even as he now holds the event’s gold medal nearly 25 years later, that stands out in stark contrast to Johnson’s blunt honesty. After all, Johnson has nothing more to hide.

Director Daniel Gordon does an excellent job of putting both facts and rumors on the table and letting the two men speak for themselves. Then he adds the important context by interviewing doctors, coaches, managers, IOC lab techs, and the other six finalists from the ’88 race, and puts together a Ken-Burns-esque documentary that is arguably the best, most cinematic of ESPN’s “30 for 30″ series to date.

After all is said, Gordon, neither prosecutor nor defender, leaves us to be the jury. We’ll never know if Lewis doped or if Johnson was sabotoged, but we can lean with help from the film, which details how Lewis tested positive for three stimulants at the ’88 U.S. Trials before the USOC deemed it an “inadvertent positive.”

For now, Lewis lives on in the record books as track’s most decorated Olympian. Johnson is just a cheater. We know it’s an accurate tag, but we’re not sure it’s one he should wear alone.

WATCH: Top basketball moments of the Rio Olympics

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 20:  (L-R) Gold medalists Diana Taurasi #12 and Sue Bird #6 of United States celebrate during the medal ceremony after the Women's Basketball competition on Day 15 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1 on August 20, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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As expected the U.S. took gold in both men’s and women’s basketball, with the men winning their third consecutive Olympic gold medal and the women running their streak to six straight. But there was a lot more to take in at the basketball venues, including Serbia’s men’s team winning their first Olympic basketball medal (as an independent nation), and Spain doing the same in the women’s bracket.

To watch the top basketball moments of the Rio Olympics, click here.

WATCH: Top track and field moments of the Rio Olympics

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 14:  Usain Bolt of Jamaica celebrates winning the Men's 100 meter final on Day 9 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 14, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
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From Sam Kendrick’s patriotic moment to Usain Bolt’s “triple-triple,” check out the best moments from the 2016 Rio Olympics track and field competition.

You can watch all of these moments here.