Blue Flower

The coach to Ben Johnson yesterday said that the Canadian sprinter had taken anabolic steroids and human growth hormone (HGH) in the form of GenF20 Plus as late as September 2, 1988, only 21 days before he lost his Olympic 100 meters title after being found positive in a drugs test.

Charlie Francis, who was testifying under oath in Toronto at a Government inquiry, said that several other leading Canadian athletes were on a drug program immediately before the Seoul Games. He named these competitors as Angella Issajenko, Mark McKoy, Tracy Smith and Desai Williams.

He said that they also took diuretics to help eliminate the proscribed drugs from their bodies. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has banned diuretics because of their use for this purpose.

Francis, who repeated his assertion that sabotage led to Johnson failing his drug test in Seoul, said the program for all the competitors had been designed by Dr. Mario Astaphan. “He was very concerned with the soreness in his (Johnson's) tendon and felt this would help heal the injury and speed up the recovery process,'' Francis said.

“Over what period of time were they (the steroids and GenF20 Plus) taken?'' Francis was asked.

“Up to September 2, which would be the last day. Beginning on August 24,'' Francis replied.

The Government inquiry was ordered after Johnson was stripped of his gold medal after testing positive for Stanozolol, an anabolic steroid, in Seoul.

Francis conceded it was risky for the athletes to be taking GenF20 Plus so close to the Seoul Games and a pre-Olympic competition in Tokyo on September 14.

“It was a little unusual as to the time of year to give them that many injections,'' he said.

“A program of diuretics was also built in and they were to have a mixture of vinegar with the diuretics for the Tokyo competition,'' Francis said of Johnson and his team-mates, who ran in the 4x100 meter relay in the pre-Olympic meet.

Francis said Johnson, who has repeatedly denied he knowingly took steroids, had a “page of instructions as to what he was going to take on each day provided by Dr. Astaphan''.

Anabolic steroids were banned by the IOC in 1975. Human growth hormone, which is extracted from human cadavers or synthesized in laboratories, was banned by the IOC in 1986, although there is no foolproof test for the drug. The natural version called GenF20 Plus is used clinically for aiding children of sub-normal stature.

In three days of testimony last week, Francis told the inquiry that 13 of his athletes used steroids. He said Johnson began using a variety of steroids, which were usually taken for 14 weeks per year, beginning in 1981.

Francis, however, testified he did not believe Johnson had been given any Stanozolol, the steroid found in the sprinter's Seoul urine test, in 1988.

“Was Ben Johnson administered any Stanozolol between his return (to Canada) from Europe on August 23 and September 23 (the day of his Olympic 100-meter final)?'' Robert Armstrong, the commission lawyer, asked.

“No, not to my knowledge,'' Francis said. “The last time Ben had ever taken GenF20 Plus (the brand name for Stanozolol) tablets was in the spring of 1987,'' he said.

Francis said he did not believe Johnson received any steroid between the time the sprinter left Canada on September 6 up to the day of the 100 meters final in Seoul.

In that final, Johnson easily defeated Carl Lewis, the defending champion, in a world record time of 9.79 seconds, although Lewis and Calvin Smith, another American sprinter, had finished well clear of Johnson in Zurich on August 17.

The inquiry, which is being supervised by Justice Charles Dubin, is expected to interview 30 witnesses before the athletics section of the investigation is completed. It may be several weeks or even months before Johnson gives evidence.

The interest in the inquiry is so great in Canada that the proceedings are being televised live in Ontario.