The Sidelines : Coach Tells of Drug Dilemma

From Times Wire Services

Ben Johnson’s former coach says track and field athletes face a dilemma. They can take performance-enhancing drugs and have a better chance of winning, or not take them and most likely lose.

“If you don’t take it, you don’t make it. Break the rules or lose,” Charlie Francis wrote in his new book, “Speed Trap: A Track Coach’s Account of How the World Greatest Athletes Win--with Drugs,” written with investigative reporter Jeff Coplon.

“In an ideal world, of course, people would not feel so impelled to seek an edge--pharmaceutical or otherwise--over their competition. Athletes would pursue excellence for its own sake; in such a world there would be little demand for performance-enhancing drugs.

“But as long as sport remains a big business; as long as the Olympics are driven by the dollar first and last (from the IOC’s--International Olympic Committee’s--nine-figure network revenues to the gold medalist’s seven-figure commercial endorsements); as long as hundredths of seconds translate into millions of dollars and blinding celebrity, athletes will do whatever they can to win.”