In a University of Toronto storeroom, six plaster parts of a statue representing sprinter Ben Johnson lie in storage. The objects were intended for use in the casting of a life-size bronze statue of Johnson intended for Ottawa’s National Sport and Recreation Centre. Now, the statue faces an uncertain future. Testifying before a federally appointed inquiry into the use of drugs in sport, Johnson’s coach, Charlie Francis, has declared that Johnson began using banned anabolic steroids in 1981 to improve his athletic performance. Still, when the inquiry before Mr. Justice Charles Dubin of the Ontario Supreme Court resumed in Toronto last week, Francis said that, despite Johnson’s earlier use of steroids, he did not know why the steroid stanozolol was found in Johnson’s urine at last summer’s Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. At the same time, Francis blamed officials for allowing lax security at the Olympics’ drug-testing centre and he suggested that a mysterious stranger may have been able to “sabotage” a beer consumed by Johnson—who subsequently was disqualified for steroid use and forced to give up his Olympic gold medal for the 100-m event.
During his second week of testimony before the commission, Francis also said that Canadian Track and Field Association (CTFA) president Jean-Guy Ouellette agreed to help Francis protect athletes using steroids by warning Francis about track meets at which drug tests would take place. The most intensive and hostile cross-examination of Francis so far came from Johnson’s lawyer, Edward Futerman. He portrayed Francis as a father figure who led his client astray by introducing the 19year-old athlete to steroids in 1981. Futerman questioned whether Johnson fully understood the implications of taking steroids. At one point, Futerman brandished a doctor’s report that showed Johnson to have once suffered an enlargement of his left breast, a minor side effect of steroid use. “You made it abundantly clear that you had a fairly positive feeling about Ben’s ability to understand,” Futerman told Francis. “But is it also fair to say that not everyone shared that opinion, that some people were somewhat concerned about Ben’s capacity to understand what you were talking about?” Replied Francis: “My wellbeing as well as his was at stake. I believed enough in his understanding that I was prepared to give [steroids] to him and entrust my career with him as well as his own.” The spectre of sabotage, first raised after Johnson was disqualified in Seoul, emerged again when Francis sought to explain how traces of the steroid stanozolol came to be found in Johnson’s urine. In earlier testimony, Francis said that another steroid, Furazabol, had been supplied to Johnson by Dr. George Mario üamie) Astaphan for several years. Experiments with stanozolol, said Francis, had ceased in the spring of 1987 after Johnson found that it caused stiffness in his muscles. At numerous previous meets where Johnson had been tested, said Francis, all traces of Furazabol, used in training to increase stamina, had disappeared. When he was told that stanozolol was in Johnson’s urine in Seoul, said Francis, “I was totally shocked. I thought, something’s got to be dramatically wrong here.”
Francis added that after the stanozolol discovery, Johnson told him about a “black guy” who had been in the Olympic drug-testing area while Johnson drank 10 bottles of beer in order to produce urine for testing. Francis said that Johnson, who described the intruder as a tall American, said that the man had ample time to “spike” his beer with stanozolol.
Francis also implied that certain CTFA officials turned a blind eye to steroid use among Canadian athletes. Francis said that in 1982, a group of officials issued a certificate of injury to Canadian shot-putter Bishop Dolegiewicz, whom Francis identified as having supplied steroids to Johnson and other athletes. Because of the injury, Dolegiewicz was unable to compete in a meet where a drug test was administered. In 1986, said Francis, he told Ouellette that the random testing of athletes planned by the CTFA would put Canadian athletes at a disadvantage because other countries continued to tolerate steroid use. According to Francis, Ouellette told him that “if in fact random testing was put in, he would attempt to become involved in the process so that we could find out and have some advance warning.” After listening to Francis’s testimony, Ouellette denied the allegations, and told reporters that his side of the story would come out when he testifies—perhaps next month.
Meanwhile, some Canadian track-and-field officials predicted that both Francis’s and Johnson’s track careers were unlikely to survive the Dubin inquiry. For his part, Hugh Glynn, president of Ottawa’s National Sport and Recreation Centre, said last week that there “wasn’t any way we could have proceeded with the installation” of the planned Ben Johnson statue. With the Dubin inquiry expected to sit for at least three more months—and Johnson himself expected to testify several months from now— the track-and-field athletes and officials clearly felt that more bad news for their sport was almost certain to emerge.
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