The World Hide and Seek Federation, governing body for professional hide and seek contests, has taken the unprecedented step of handing a lifetime ban to US Navy SEAL Lance Johnson. The ban is in response to allegations of unsportsmanlike conduct from Mr Johnson in a recent contest with then reigning world champion Osama Bin Laden.
A 5 time former world champion himself, Lance Johnson had long had a reputation as the bad boy of the sport. Utilising his special forces training his rise through the ranks of hiders and seekers had been nothing short of meteoric, culminating in him becoming the youngest ever world champion at the age of 24. According to WHSF president Jack Carter he has however courted controversy often throughout his career.
‘From the moment Lance came on the scene it was obvious that we were looking at a prodigiously talented individual who was destined to be a star of the sport for many years to come. As he progressed through his Navy SEAL training he was only getting better, but his talent was only matched by his lack of respect for the rules of the sport. He had multiple warnings about his conduct for failing to adhere to the strict etiquette expected in top level hiding and seeking contests.’
Lance was hit with fines for failing to announce ‘ready or not, here I come’ at the start of contests on 7 different occasions. His 1997 world championship win was shrouded in controversy amid allegations that he used the technique of waterboarding on the first hider that he located, in order to extract information on the whereabouts of the remaining hiders. The allegations against him were never proven but his reputation was tarnished from that point on.
After being surpassed as world number 1 in 2001 by Osama Bin Laden his behaviour became increasingly erratic in his desperation to reclaim the top spot. Mr Carter and the rest of the WHSF committee did not take the decision to hand out the ban lightly however.
‘He seemed obsessed with finding Bin Laden and reclaiming his position at the top of the sport. We had to ban him for 3 months in 2007 after he falsely announced that the game was over as it was dinner time but even that didn’t stop him growing ever more desperate. Ultimately we were left with no choice other than to impose a life ban. We have to send a clear message that shooting fellow contestants in the eye, thereby severely affecting their seeking capabilities, simply isn’t acceptable in top level competition.’