After weeks of playing coy over who is organizing his re-election campaign, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford introduced two members of his "campaign team" Tuesday: disgraced Olympic athlete Ben Johnson and Trailer Park Boys actor Sam Tarasco.
The mayor appeared with Mr. Johnson – a sprinter who had his Olympic medal rescinded in 1988 after he was found guilty of doping – and Mr. Tarasco at his side at City Hall, telling reporters the pair had officially joined his team. But his brother and campaign manager Councillor Doug Ford, who said he was taken by surprise by the announcement, later clarified to The Globe that although Mr. Johnson and Mr. Tarasco are supporters of the mayor's, neither one has official roles with the campaign.
"I'm excited to have them on our campaign team," Mayor Ford told reporters Tuesday. "We're going to do a few events, and I just want to thank these guys for their support."
Mayor Ford, who has been under intense scrutiny over the past year for admitting to have smoked crack cocaine "in a drunken stupor," said he isn't concerned that Mr. Johnson's doping record will remind voters about his own drug scandals.
"I support Ben 100 per cent," Mayor Ford said. "We've all made mistakes in life. I've supported him from day one, and that's the bottom line."
Mayor Ford and Mr. Johnson "shared a common bond," said Neil Forester, the man responsible for bringing the group together on Tuesday afternoon. Mr. Forester, the owner of an event promotion company called The Substance Group, is organizing a charitable project involving the mayor, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Tarasco.
"There was discussion of how Rob Ford's supported the struggles that Ben's gone through and vice versa, and I guess they just somewhat shared a common bond," Mr. Forester told The Globe.
"And from that, they discussed working together in the future and some other opportunities within Mayor Ford's campaign. That grew organically."
Neither Mr. Johnson or Mr. Tarasco – who has played Sam Losco on the Trailer Park Boys since 2002 – took immediate questions from reporters. Mr. Johnson only said that Mr. Ford has his "full support," and that he voted for Mr. Ford in the last election.
When reached by telephone later Tuesday afternoon, a friend of Mr. Johnson's passed on that he said "the time is not right to talk right now."
Doug Ford said that, although Mr. Tarasco and Mr. Johnson expressed an interest in helping, neither will be official members of the campaign team.
"Are they high-level campaign? No. Do they support Robbie? Yeah," Doug Ford said.
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