Randy Starkman, the two-time National Newspaper Award winner from the Toronto Star and the man who exposed Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson’s second positive steroid test in 1993, passed away Monday at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.
Starkman, who covered 12 Olympic Games, winter and summer, was 51. He fell ill after returning home from Montreal last month in the wake of covering Canada’s Olympic swimming trials. Diagnosed with pneumonia, he was admitted to hospital last week, and spent several days in intensive care.
“He’s just one of a kind in our world,” Mark Tewksbury, Olympic 100m backstroke champion in 1992 and Canada’s chef de mission for the London Olympics this summer, told the Star. "There was no bigger advocate for Olympic sports, Olympic athletes than Randy. There’s now just a huge void."
Starkman, who began his journalism career covering sports with United Press Canada, was hired by the Toronto Star after the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, where Johnson, beefed up and beast-like on his blocks, tested positive for steroids after winning the 100m on the track.
In Canada, the big pro-sports such as ice hockey offer the beats that so many reporters would like to haunt but Starkman turned all that down, his interest amateur athletics and the Olympics. He was keen on research and hungry to get behind the story and visited Nick Thierry, SwimNews proprietor and founder, at home many times down the years in pursuit of swimming knowledge.
Thierry said: "He was only 51! A great friend, he visited here many times when he wanted background on swimming. He was very knowledgeable about Olympic sports and the sports bureaucracy at the IOC and Canada. We'll miss him very much."
Toronto Star Editor, Michael Cooke: "Randy was a reporter who knew the amateur sports beat A-to-Z and back again. His lively personality and deeply rooted professionalism will be so sadly missed by our newsroom."
Among other tributes to Starkman was this from Athletics Canada's Mathieu Gentes, head of public relations and corporate services: "I personally worked with Randy for almost eight years as he covered our athletes and events on a year-round basis, not just every four years.
"He was a true professional in every sense of the word, our athletes always made time to speak with him. When I contact an athlete with a request the first question is usually who is it for. Any time the answer was `Randy’ you can be sure a `no problem’ or `yes’ followed closely."
Starkman is survived by his wife, Mary Hynes, herself a renowned amateur sports reporter, and their teenaged daughter, Ella.
For those who never knew Randy's work, you can read some of the last articles he wrote, including Canadian swim trials coverage last month, here.