Charlie Francis, sprint coach, and Ben Johnson, disgraced Olympic champion, are names forever linked in the history of anabolic steroid use among track and field athletes. Francis was Johnson's longtime coach and mentor when Johnson tested positive for the presence of an anabolic steroid after he had won the 1988 Olympic Games 100-m race in a world record time of 9.779 seconds. Francis was one of the first track and field coaches in North America to incorporate steroid use directly into the training programs he created for his athletes.
Despite his initial denials of any wrongdoing in 1988, Johnson was stripped of his gold medal by the International Olympic Committee; his track and field career was ruined and Johnson was disgraced. Public reaction in Canada to the actions of Johnson was so profound that the government convened the world's first public inquiry (the Dubin Inquiry) into the use of performance enhancing drugs in sport.
Francis was a former Olympic class sprinter who turned to coaching in the late 1970s. His testimony at the Dubin Inquiry shocked the athletics world. Francis told the inquiry that he had supervised the injection of steroids into Johnson and other leading Canadian sprinters because the use of steroids among the world's elite athletes in the sport was rampant.
Francis had organized the administration of steroids to his athletes with the assistance of a Canadian physician, Dr. Jamie Astaphan. The doses provided to each athlete were carefully monitored. Francis testified that virtually all of the world's top sprinters were taking some form of performance enhancing substance and that the only way that Francis could keep Johnson and other Canadian runners competitive was to engage in steroid use.
The testimony of Francis created a sensation. The Dubin report, published in 1990, concluded that there was clear evidence of widespread drug use in sport, particularly track and field. Canada acted upon many of the Dubin recommendations and consequently propelled itself to a place among the world leaders in the campaign against performance enhancing drugs in sport. Canada is the headquarters of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Francis inquiry testimony in 1989 was prescient, given the subsequent information made available in relation to both the systemic steroid use by East German athletes, as well as the American revelations concerning the positive drug tests of prominent athletes that were not reported to the appropriate international agencies at the time.
Francis remained a vocal opponent of international athletics drug testing policies. In 2003, he briefly coached Tim Montgomery, the American sprinter and former world 100-m record holder who was implicated in the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO) steroid scandal that resulted in Montgomery's suspension from track and field.