Shock and outrage were the first reactions Wednesday from among those who were apparently implicated in performance-enhancing drug use by Canadian Coach Charlie Francis during a public hearing in Toronto.
Francis, coach of banned Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, implicated seven current and former athletes in testimony before a Canadian board of inquiry into impropriety in sport. Francis said that he had either seen or been told by reliable sources that the athletes he discussed had used anabolic steroids.
Among those implicated, although not specifically named, were: Florence Griffith Joyner, world record-holder at 100 and 200 meters; Evelyn Ashford, the former world record-holder at 100 meters; Pat Connolly, Ashford’s former coach and herself a former U.S. Olympian; Jay Silvester, former discus world record-holder and currently a track coach at Brigham Young University; Chi Cheng of Taiwan, who held the world record in 100 and 200 in 1970, John Smith, who holds the world record at 440 yards and is the current track coach at UCLA and sprinter Andrea Lynch, a former British Olympian.
Francis did not name them directly, but he described their achievements in such a way that they would be easily identified by anyone with a knowledge of the sport.
Francis said he had actually seen only one athlete taking or even in possession of steroids, and that was before they were banned in 1974.
Francis said he was in the room of a New Zealand shotputter in the Olympic Village at Munich in 1972 and that “an American discus thrower who was also a world record-holder” came into the room and accepted a bottle filled with Dianabol pills. Francis added that “the discus thrower” took the bottle from the shotputter and left the room.
Silvester was the world record-holder at the time. He could not be reached for comment.
Francis implicated Connolly, Ashford and Smith in a circuitous fashion. He testified that in 1979 “the world record-holder at 440 yards” (Smith) told him a prominent female coach who was also a former athlete (Connolly) had come to (Smith) asking for Dianabol to give to her prominent American female sprinter (Ashford). Francis said the sprinter subsequently showed great improvement. Smith could not be reached for comment.
In 1979, Ashford’s time in the 100 went from 11.16 seconds to 10.97 and in the 200 from 22.66 to 21.83.
Connolly says the progress Ashford made that year was not unusual.
Ashford, who together with Connolly, her former coach, has been one of the sport’s leading anti-drug campaigners, said she thought that she was a target because of her outspokenness.
“Because I’m speaking out is why he’s attacking me,” Ashford said Wednesday. “Maybe (Francis) thinks I’ll stop. He can forget it. I’m not going to stop. The sport has a cancer on it and it has to be cut out.”
Connolly said she was angry at having her name “lumped in with the dirty sleazes (athletes who take drugs),” but said she was not surprised. She suspected that because of her high profile, a reference to her might come up.
“Look, if I was in the least bit guilty, why would I stand up and point so many fingers?” Connolly said. “I’m not so stupid as to be a person who would do that. The users have to stand up and say everyone is using, to justify their own use. You could almost expect this. They have to take other people down with them.
“There are people in the sport who are clean. They have been lumped in with the dirty sleazes, and I’m sick of it.”
Although Francis stopped short of saying that Griffith Joyner’s world-record performances last summer and fall were the result of steroid use, he mentioned it in the context of performance-enhancing drugs. Francis used elaborate charts during his testimony to illustrate his contention that the world-record progressions in the 100 and 200 had been abnormally accelerated in recent years, because of drug use.
“If you expect normal human endeavor, you have to go another 50 years to get to this point,” Francis said, pointing to Griffith Joyner’s 100 time of 10.49 at the top of the chart. “I don’t think you can discuss this. This is what’s going on. This is the international picture.”
Then Francis pointed to Griffith Joyner’s time on the 200 chart. “Once again, you are looking at 40 to 50 years before this curve is expected,” he said.
Griffith Joyner, who retired from track last Saturday, was unavailable for comment, but her agent, Gordon Baskin, strongly denied that the runner had used a banned substance.
“The truth is the truth and the truth will prevail--Florence has never and will never use steroids,” Baskin told the Associated Press from his office in Los Angeles.
“She has gone through so many tests with the USOC, the TAC and the many governing bodies.”
Baskin said that after Johnson had tested positive in Seoul, there were rumors about other leading athletes, including Griffith Joyner.
“The IOC thought it was so unfair that they made a specific announcement that Florence has never tested positive,” he said.
Ashford held the women’s 100-meter world record at 10.79 before it was broken by Griffith Joyner. Connolly said that she was aware of rumors for some years that she had given drugs to Ashford.
“I don’t want his dirt to get on me,” Ashford said. “I tell you what, I think my reputation speaks for itself. I’ve been in the sport a long time and I intend to stay in it for another four years. I didn’t think people who take drugs would last as long as I have.”
Connolly said that in that same year, 1979, Francis approached her at an indoor meet and offered to share information about which drugs were most effective and which of his athletes had success with which drugs.
“He assumed Evelyn was using drugs,” Connolly said. “I told him to get lost. His idea was that we could work together and beat the East Germans.”
Connolly said that she would be happy to testify under oath and with a polygraph regarding the matter.
Ashford said that she has grown increasingly disenchanted with the state of the sport, so much that she would try to prevent her young daughter from getting into track.
“She won’t get into it if we can’t stop what’s happening,” Ashford said. “She’ll play piano. People like Charlie Francis tell his athletes that Evelyn is on drugs, to get his athletes to take drugs. This is how he rationalizes it.”
Cheng was apparently implicated when Francis said he was told by two coaches that a “prominent Asian woman sprinter who competed in the United States and ran at a world-record level” was using drugs.
Cheng is a four-term representative to the Taiwan national assembly and could not be reached for comment.
Lynch, who attended Cal State Northridge, was also implicated by Francis, who testified that “one Canadian athlete indicated to me that his British-born wife who was among the world’s fastest in the 100 meters . . he said she was given Dianabol by her British coach.”
Lynch, who was British, was married to Canadian Olympic runner Brian Saunders. She was seventh in the 100 at the 1976 Olympics.
Francis also said that in 1978, three Canadian athletes attended Clemson University in South Carolina to compete on the track team and were each given a bottle of Dianabol and told to take one pill a day. Francis said the athletes didn’t like the school and left.
Times staff writer Randy Harvey in Toronto contributed to this story.
ATHLETES IMPLICATED The following track and field athletes were implicated, although not specifically named, by Charlie Francis in his testimony Wednesday before the Dubin Inquiry into improprieties in Canadian sports.
Florence Griffith Joyner, U.S.: Current world record-holder at 100 and 200 meters.
Evelyn Ashford, U.S.: Former world record-holder at 100 meters.
Pat Connolly, U.S.: Ashford’s former coach and former U.S. Olympian.
Jay Silvester, U.S.: Former world record-holder in discus.
John Smith, U.S.: Former Olympian, world record-holder at 440 yards and UCLA track coach.
Chi Cheng, Taiwan: Former world record-holder at 100 and 200 meters.
Andrea Lynch, Great Britain: Olympic sprinter.