Coach Testifies to Steroid Use by Ben Johnson

Times Staff Writer

A Canadian track coach, Charlie Francis, said under oath here Wednesday that he supervised the use of performance-enhancing drugs, including anabolic steroids, for Ben Johnson, the world record-holder in the 100-meter dash, and 10 other athletes.

Testifying before the Canadian government’s inquiry into the use of drugs and other banned substances by athletes, Francis said that it was impossible to compete in track and field at an international level without using anabolic steroids.

Five of the athletes Francis named, including Johnson, won medals for Canada at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

Claiming to Be Clean


“There are people out there claiming they (succeeded) clean, that they did it by working hard,” he said. “But that’s not true, not at the highest level.”

Anabolic steroids are synthetic derivatives of the male hormone testosterone. They are believed by many athletes to increase muscle mass and aid in improving performances.

Francis said that Johnson began using the drugs in 1981, seven years before the man considered to be the world’s fastest was disqualified after he tested positive for an anabolic steroid, stanozolol, at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul.

He was stripped of his gold medal and the world record of 9.79 seconds he set in the 100 meters in Seoul. The world record of 9.83 he set the previous year at the world championships in Rome still stands.


Johnson, 27, has been suspended from competition for two years by the international governing body for track and field. But the Canadian Sports Ministry has announced that Johnson, who was born in Jamaica but has lived in Toronto since he was 14, will not be allowed to compete on a national team again.

“It’s pretty clear that steroids are worth one meter (in the 100 meters) at the highest level,” Francis said, recalling his initial discussions with Johnson about using drugs. “He could decide he wanted to set his starting blocks at the same place as the others. Or he could set them up a meter behind.”

In four hours of testimony, Francis also admitted his own steroid use in 1972--before steroids were banned--when he competed for Canada at the Summer Olympics in Munich. And he implicated, although not by name, numerous athletes from eight countries, most of them from the United States.

His testimony is scheduled to continue today.

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