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Ben Johnson’s 1988 Olympic drug test contains altered lab codes and hand-scrawled revisions. And almost no one has seen it until now




Thirty years after the Seoul Olympics, Ben Johnson finally saw the evidence used to disqualify him.

He was shocked.

The unanswered questions about Ben Johnson’s lab tests in Seoul continue to pile up after all these years. On Sept. 27 was the 30th anniversary of Johnson's Olympic disqualification.
The unanswered questions about Ben Johnson’s lab tests in Seoul continue to pile up after all these years. On Sept. 27 was the 30th anniversary of Johnson’s Olympic disqualification.  (Randy Risling / Toronto Star)

“If I had seen this in Seoul, I would have kept my medal,” Johnson says while reading pages from the September 1988 lab report containing his drug-testing results.

“If you can’t see the evidence, how can others condemn somebody?”

Turns out no Canadian Olympic team official saw Johnson’s lab report in Seoul. Or the slew of handwritten scrawls that altered information throughout the official document.

If they had, would the sprinter’s fate have been different if the evidence had been challenged? The time 9.79 never asterisked? The Dubin Inquiry never called?

Possibly, says Montreal lawyer Richard Pound, an International Olympic Committee vice-president in 1988 who stepped up to defend the sprinter amid the chaos. But he adds a personal caveat.

“I would have been really embarrassed that through some lawyering, you got somebody off who was guilty,” says Pound, who confirmed he hasn’t seen Johnson’s lab report.

“All the information eventually gets out.”

The Star has obtained a copy of the lab report — 30 years old this past week — which holds clinical data, dates, times, sample codes, plus the scientific test results that detected traces of the banned anabolic steroid stanozolol in the Toronto sprinter’s urine after he won the 100 metres in world-record time.

The IOC’s doping control centre in Seoul produced the 31-page document two days after Johnson provided a post-race urine sample that he believed was drug-free. In Seoul, Johnson denied taking banned substances but later testified at a royal commission — the fact-finding Dubin Inquiry, called after the sprinter was stripped of his medal — that he indeed was a longtime steroid user.

Johnson’s report was tucked away in storage for three decades as a Dubin Inquiry exhibit. It contains a series of computerized test results that determined stanozolol metabolites — which are considered the drug’s fingerprint — were present in Johnson’s urine.

While the presence of stanozolol is indisputable (experts retained by Dubin verified those chemical findings), inconsistencies throughout the long-forgotten documents raise procedural questions about the lab’s handling of the sprinter’s sample. The Seoul paperwork is peppered with unsigned handwritten revisions, unexplained deletions, question marks, “blank” urine tests, changed lab codes and most notably, apparent confusion at the time about what steroid was actually in Johnson’s system.

The IOC’s powerful medical commission, which oversaw its accredited doping control centre testing in Seoul, withheld the lab report from the Canadians in 1988 — effectively preventing the commission’s work from being challenged — after Canada’s chief medical officer, Dr. William Stanish, requested the information.

Read more: Ben was fast, justice was faster

Seeing Johnson in a new light

Johnson, 56, says the medical commission’s intention “was for me not to see anything with Charlie around,” referring to his coach at the time, the late Charlie Francis.

“Charlie had a brilliant mind. He would have noticed mistakes.”

The Canadian team took the medical commission’s word that its testing methods were unassailable.

Through Pound’s advocacy, Johnson’s one shot at refuting his positive result included assertions the sprinter didn’t use banned drugs, and that a stranger who breached security in the doping control room may have sabotaged him. That defence failed, though a 2016 Star investigation showed security rules were clearly broken that day. Johnson remains adamant the steroid should have cleared his system by race day.

IOC justice was swift: it took about 24 hours from the time the Canadian was accused of cheating to his disqualification. The IOC executive, acting on the medical commission’s recommendation, stripped Johnson of his gold medal on Sept. 27 and expelled him from the Games.

Ben Johnson's victory in Seoul. Johnson says he feels disturbed and betrayed by the 30-year-old lab results.
Ben Johnson’s victory in Seoul. Johnson says he feels disturbed and betrayed by the 30-year-old lab results.  (PA Images)

Johnson had no avenue to appeal the IOC decision back then, unlike athletes today. After the Games, he says no Canadian amateur sport body pushed to independently verify his test results.

Johnson has been long paraded as the IOC’s biggest anti-doping villain. His plummet from golden grace was heralded as the ultimate deterrent to athletes tempted to cheat.

It hasn’t worked. Athletes today still cheat and in some cases, their government helps them do it.

Recently, athletes and national amateur sport bodies — including the Canadian Olympic Committee — have excoriated the World Anti-Doping Association for lifting a ban on Russia’s anti-doping agency, RUSADA. The Russian agency was suspended in 2015 after Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren conducted an independent investigation for WADA (an arm’s-length body of the IOC) and discovered a widespread state-supported system of doping schemes and coverups across Russian sport.

Ottawa-area lawyer Alan Pratt was part of Charlie Francis’s legal team at the Dubin Inquiry. Pratt says Francis, who testified candidly, had wanted Dubin to recommend a broader discussion of the use of steroids as a training tool, because a complete ban “doesn’t work if the demand is irrestisible.”

“It’s gone from bad to worse,” Pratt says, citing the RUSADA situation as the Olympic movement’s latest hypocrisy.

“I see the corruption and the endemic conflicts being as great or greater — and more public — than they were in the days of Ben Johnson. That necessary conversation about why (steroids) were banned in the first place, so we can restore transparency and honesty to the sport, has never taken place.”

Transparency in Seoul would have prompted at least one question.

Why was another steroid, oxandrolone, identified in Johnson’s report, then scratched out?

The IOC announced after the Seoul Summer Games that 10 athletes had failed drug tests. Johnson was the only track-and-field athlete, according to the IOC.

But this is not entirely true.

Belgian marathoner Ria Van Landeghem, an Olympic medal contender, was sent home before the Games began. She was told a urine sample she provided in the Seoul lab on Sept. 16, 1988, at the request of then-Belgian chef de mission Jacques Rogge, was positive for the anabolic steroid oxandrolone. (Rogge later became IOC president for 12 years.)

Van Landeghem was staggered by the news. She says she understood athletes’ rights relating to anti-doping procedures yet never got the chance to defend herself in Seoul.

Ria Van Landeghem, a former Belgian marathoner, seen a few years ago. She was sent home just before the Seoul 1988 Games for failing a drug test. In 2015, three experts determined the Seoul lab results that indicated she was doping were clearly wrong.
Ria Van Landeghem, a former Belgian marathoner, seen a few years ago. She was sent home just before the Seoul 1988 Games for failing a drug test. In 2015, three experts determined the Seoul lab results that indicated she was doping were clearly wrong.

Van Landeghem, 61, was a clean-sport advocate. She says she had never used drugs to cheat and has fought for three decades to clear her name. (The runner says she was sent home without her lab results; she had been given a single-page letter written by lab director Dr. Jong Sei Park, at her demand, confirming the steroid finding. However, she had to request her lab report from Belgian Olympic officials. She didn’t get the report until late October 1988.)

In 2015, three anti-doping experts — two of whom had worked in IOC-accredited labs — reviewed her Seoul results. She says they concluded the oxandrolone finding was “clearly” wrong and that she was clean.

“It is not difficult for people in power to taint one’s reputation, mess up one’s life,” Van Landeghem wrote in an email.

“It is enough for them to just say someone tested positive and all harm is done.”

Initially, the Flemish Athletics Federation banned Van Landeghem for two years. But it soon reversed that decision on appeal (the appeal was supported by the International Amateur Athletics Federation) based on procedural missteps in Seoul. Among them: she says Park had personally collected her urine sample, so he knew her identity, and when her B sample was tested, neither she nor a representative of her choice was allowed to be present.

Athletes provide enough urine at doping control centres to be split into an A and a B sample. If the A sample triggers a positive result, the athlete is alerted and has the right to be present when the B sample is opened for testing. For an official positive finding, the B results must replicate those found in A.

Van Landeghem, an art teacher at Antwerp’s Royal Academy for Fine Arts, is pursuing legal action against the Belgian Olympic and Interfederal Committee. She believes “they were responsible for organizing a preventative doping test in the Olympic doping lab.”

Ben Johnson’s Seoul test results are much different from Van Landeghem’s. So is his doping history.

There were 80 nanograms of stanozolol’s chemical traces in Johnson’s urine — a relatively large amount to be there on a race day, according to a source with biochemical expertise who has examined Johnson’s testing documents. Steroids are considered strength-building drugs, taken during training, and would be of little performance use on race days. Johnson would later confess to being a steroid user when he testified before the late Justice Charles Dubin. When Johnson was allowed to return to competition, he tested positive again in 1993. That resulted in a lifetime ban.

Van Landeghem is training for the Oct. 14 marathon in the Dutch city of Eindhoven. Once one of the world’s fastest female marathoners, she had her Olympic dream crushed in the IOC lab. Based on her 1988 experience, the runner says she lost “all trust in authorities and their hidden agendas” and has doubts about methods used in the doping control centre run by Park.

“If all this could happen to me during the Olympic Games,” Van Landeghem wrote, “one could ask more questions about drug testing in Seoul.”

Dr. Jong Sei Park says he can’t remember what drug tripped up Ben Johnson.

“I remember a few things,” the 76-year-old says from his Boston-area home.

“I did the test on Ben Johnson but now I don’t remember any detail of what happened during that time period.”

When asked why the chemical red flag for oxandrolone was detected in Johnson’s urine — a finding that was crossed out by hand but still legible in the sprinter’s lab results — but stanozolol was ultimately deemed the drug, Park was at a loss.

“I don’t remember what drug he took,” he says. “I remember he took a steroid but I don’t know which particular medicine he took or what’s the cause of it and all that kind of technical detail.”

Park says he left the lab at least 20 years ago and worries his memories of 1988 are too faded to be trusted.

“I’m afraid (to) answer any questions because I might give you the wrong answer, which might make everybody unhappy.”

In Seoul, all Olympic competitors were given individual “accreditation card” numbers. Johnson’s unique athlete number was 956777. When he delivered his urine sample, the sprinter’s sample was given number 2831; Johnson recalls signing a sheet before doping control room officials after he handed over his specimen, verifying it was his.

In Park’s testing centre, Johnson’s numbered sample (2831) was then given a lab code — 24-66 — to ensure anonymity from testers.

In August of 1989, Dr. Manfred Donike, a German IOC medical commission member in Seoul, presented Johnson’s lab results to the Dubin Inquiry. Donike, now deceased, gave testimony about the testing but did not reference any alterations to the documents, according to news reports from that period. It was the first time Johnson’s lab work had been made public, but it’s unclear if anyone in the hearing room — lawyers, media or the public — read the exhibit before it was filed.

The Dubin Inquiry retained two scientific advisers, one from Montreal’s McGill University and one from the University of Toronto, to review Johnson’s lab results. Both advisers confirmed the stanozolol findings as correct, according to Dubin’s 1990 report. No issues with the lab’s paperwork were mentioned in the commissioner’s report.

In Seoul, Pound says that Johnson’s team did not want to attack the anti-doping science and sought other potential post-race explanations for failing the test. The stranger in doping control — who turned out to be Andre Jackson, a close friend of Johnson arch-rival Carl Lewis who shadowed Johnson in the room — was chosen.

Ben Johnson and Andre Jackson in the doping control room a the Seoul Olympics. Jackson's presence was a breach of security protocols and a source of suspicion. The image is from the autobiography of Carl Lewis, Jackson's friend and Johnson's rival.
Ben Johnson and Andre Jackson in the doping control room a the Seoul Olympics. Jackson’s presence was a breach of security protocols and a source of suspicion. The image is from the autobiography of Carl Lewis, Jackson’s friend and Johnson’s rival.

Pound’s robust defence in Seoul was undercut when Donike interrupted to share information from an unauthorized, unverified endocrine profiling test he’d conducted on Johnson’s sample: it showed the sprinter was a long-term steroid user.

“It was not part of the accepted battery of tests,” Pound says of the last-minute endocrine profiling bombshell. “I think it was a research project he’d been nurturing.”

Would having Johnson’s lab report have helped with any pushback? Pound was not alone when facing the IOC’s medical commission.

In a copy of a handwritten fax dated Sept. 29, 1988 — two days after Johnson was disqualified — Dr. William Stanish, Canada’s chief medical officer, requested copies of the laboratory urine analysis (specimens A and B). Stanish noted in the fax, filed as a Dubin Inquiry exhibit, that on Sept. 26 — the same day Pound addressed the medical commission — Stanish had asked an English medical commission member for the report. It was never delivered.

Stanish, a respected orthopedic surgeon, returned to his Nova Scotia practice after the Games. He appears to be the only Canadian who fought for the lab report.

Had Johnson’s lab work been shared and scrutinized, the IOC medical commission could have been pressed for explanations on a few matters, including:

  • At the top of one sheet, the lab code, 22-46, was printed, then scratched out by hand. Johnson’s lab code, 24-66, was handwritten in.

Who was athlete 22-46? Why was this done?

  • On two pages, both dated Sept. 25 — the day after Johnson’s race — the anabolic steroid oxandrolone was identified. Only one of those pages had his lab code 24-66 but that sheet also had a hand-drawn arrow pointing to the handwritten word “stanozolol.”

Who did this test, on what lab machine, and who altered the chemical compound finding of oxandrolone and on what basis?

  • On another page, Johnson’s lab code was not printed in the “name” space. His code, 24-66, was handwritten in as sample “B.”

What is the explanation for this?

  • On one page, Johnson’s lab code is crossed out beside “blank urine test.”

What is the explanation for crossing out his lab code and running a blank urine test?

Christiane Ayotte heads the IOC-accredited lab in Laval, Que., known as the Centre INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier. She is an acclaimed international anti-doping expert with nearly 30 years’ experience.

The Star asked Ayotte to review Johnson’s lab work and intially, she agreed to assist. The Star emailed her the lab work results with specific questions, such as an explanation for the oxandrolone detection, but she did not respond to follow-up emails for this story.

However, in a July email, Ayotte recalled that athletes using stanozolol before the 1988 Summer Games, like Johnson, didn’t expect to be caught.

“Stanozolol in the 1980s was reputed to be invisible to the testers and it was,” she wrote.

“What took users by surprise was that it was not anymore (untraceable) a few months before the Seoul Games in 1988.”

What may seem equally surprising, then, is so few athletes in Seoul tested positive for the substance believed to be undetectable. Of the 10 Olympians who failed drug tests in Seoul, only three were identified for taking stanozolol.

Johnson and two Hungarian weightlifters.

Former International Olympic Committee vice-president Richard Pound, seen in 1999, was tasked with defending Johnson after the positive tests in Seoul. But he didn't have access to all the materials from the lab.
Former International Olympic Committee vice-president Richard Pound, seen in 1999, was tasked with defending Johnson after the positive tests in Seoul. But he didn’t have access to all the materials from the lab.  (RYAN REMIORZ)

There’s a cold-case element to the Ben Johnson story.

In 1988, IOC medical commission members, like Donike, pioneered the drug-testing procedures in Seoul, then acted as judge and jury without disclosing all their evidence to Johnson. The sprinter had no mechanism to appeal his disqualification or have his case reopened. Confessing his steroid secrets at the Dubin inquiry only deepened his ostracization.

Today, Canadian athletes have better protections if they fail a drug test under a WADA-compliant program (such as the Canadian anti-doping program or the IOC program), according to an email from Ben Lungo, a Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport spokesperson.

Those protections include the right to a hearing before an independent panel, and the right to request “the full laboratory documentation package from the lab pertaining to their sample,” which contains all materials (processes, reports, etc.) related to the analysis of the sample, Lungo says.

There is still one more odd tale, of drug-filled urine samples being “planted” — by the IOC — in the Seoul lab.

In December 1988, Park, director of the doping control centre, told the Washington Post that the IOC “planted” samples with “massive” amounts of steroids and stimulants in them during the Seoul Games to test his lab’s skills. Park told the Post he learned this after the Games and was angry about the scheme.

Why was this ruse necessary in an accredited lab? How could Olympic athletes be certain there was no mix-up between planted samples and theirs? How could the lab director not spot fake samples? These questions were not answered after Park’s disclosure.

Johnson says he feels betrayed by what he sees in his 30-year-old lab report.

“This information here has to be looked at in a more appropriate way by the experts who understand all the … numbers and the endocrine profiling,” he says.

“I don’t know these things.”

Few do. The biochemistry needed for anti-doping sleuthing is a difficult, ever-changing field as the scientists try to stay ahead of the cheaters.

Johnson laughs dryly when he looks at the altered oxandrolone identification.

“I guess they were probably guessing which drug they wanted to find me with,” he says.

Did he use oxandrolone? No, he says — mention of that drug came out of the blue. “That’s a shock to me.”

He repeats what many have come to learn over the years. Of the eight men in the 100-metre final in Seoul, six would eventually be implicated in doping cases.

Britain’s Linford Christie won sprint medals in the 100 and 200 in Seoul. His urine was flagged by drug testers for a stimulant just days after Johnson was caught. Through his spokesperson, Christie says he cannot remember if he’d seen his lab results before the British Olympic officials successfully defended him before the medical commision. Christie was not sanctioned.

A decade after Seoul, however, he was caught using the steroid nandrolone.

Johnson says he will share his lab report on his website for the public to examine. The full report and other Dubin exhibits are at the bottom of version of this story.) He hopes there might be enough attention to influence Olympic authorities to revisit what happened in Seoul.

“These documents are the key to getting this case reopened and once and for all, to get the truth,” says Johnson, now a grandfather of three who travels the world making appearances and training athletes.

“The public will see (the report) and come to their own conclusion about it.”

So many of the main characters connected to Johnson’s drug saga, friends and adversaries, have passed away.

His beloved mother, Gloria. Trusted coach Charlie Francis; Johnson was a pallbearer at his 2010 funeral. Carol Anne Letheren, Canada’s chef de mission in Seoul. Johnson’s Dubin Inquiry lawyer, Ed Futerman. IOC’s medical commission heavyweight Manfred Donike. Canadian medical commission member Robert Dugal, who was in Seoul’s doping control centre, too.

Johnson's coach, the late Charlie Francis.
Johnson’s coach, the late Charlie Francis.  (McConnell, Colin)

Ten years ago, Charles Dubin died. Johnson and Francis paid their respects at the former Ontario chief justice’s funeral.

Though the Dubin Inquiry was a painful experience for many Canadian witnesses, including Johnson and Francis, who truthfully testified about their use of banned drugs, Dubin was clearly concerned about the rights of athletes who may have to defend a positive drug test against powerful scientists.

“IOC-accredited laboratories are reluctant to have the accuracy of their tests challenged,” Dubin wrote in his 1990 report.

“They have a legitimate concern that releasing technical information would allow athletes interested in cheating to benefit from that information,” Dubin continued. “Athletes whose futures are affected by drug testing should, however, be allowed to know the criteria used to judge them.”

One more potential clue for Johnson remains buried in the IOC’s Swiss archives.

Late in the night of Sept. 26, 1988, and into the wee hours of Sept. 27, the IOC’s medical commission discussed Johnson’s fate for about two hours. Minutes from that meeting were recorded, then sealed by the IOC for 30 years.

Back-of-the-napkin math means 30 years is up now. However, the minutes will be available to the public on Jan. 1, 2019, according to an IOC spokesperson — with a small hitch.

“The documents will only be accessible on demand and in our historical archives office, which is based here in Lausanne, Switzerland.”

Mary Ormsby is a reporter and feature writer based in Toronto. Reach her via email:


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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme




Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year




In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal




MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.


The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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