Doug Consiglio Reacts To Charlie Francis' Death

May 20, 2010

Last week, Charlie Francis - the man who coached drug cheat Ben Johnson to the world record and brief Olympic glory at the 1988 Olympics - passed away. To the surprise of some, a lot of positive things were written about Francis. People wrote nice things about Francis for three reasons: 1) He clearly understood sprinting. 2) Many seemed to think that Francis just did what he had to in order to stay even in the drug infested 1980s. 3) When confronted with the cheating, Francis didn't deny it like everyone else.

However, the excuse of "everyone else is cheating so I have to as well" isn't one that we here at endorse, because the brave souls who don't fall for that reasoning and don't cheat are severely hurt by those that do.  To prove that, we'd like to share the following email with you.

A few days after Francis' passing, we received a great email from 1988 Canadian Olympian Doug Consiglio. In the email, Consiglio (who once held the Canadian 1,500 record at 3:35.82, was the NCAA record holder in the 1000 for 20 years thanks to his 2:19.64 clocking, and was the winner of the Pre Mile in 1991) talked about the impact Francis' actions had on the clean athletes at the 1988 Olympic Games and in the years to follow. Francis may have helped a lot of people in the world of track and field but his actions also hurt a lot as well. We now share Mr. Consiglio's email with you in its entirety:

Email From Doug Consiglio, 5/12/2010:
Sad, when ever any one dies. 

Perhaps it is just best, and most honourable to talk about a man's good point when he dies.  If you agree with that statement, just read the next few sentences and move on, don't read the rest, as the rest of the e mail regresses from this point.

Charlie Francis was a knowledgeable sprint coach who knew how to train athletes.  He was a very intelligent, well spoken man. He helped advance sprint training in Canada.  He cared a lot for his athletes and the sport in general.


But, I  was surprised Alex Gardiner (Head of Athletics Canada) gave him so much praise in a recent article. This praise for him, and how Alex said he was good for Track in Canada, compels me to make this reply.  I personally know Charlie told a bunch of us distance runners in the mid 80's that we were idiots not to cheat.  He said we would make more money, run faster and become more famous.  I guess he forgot to mention the "in" in front of famous.

In Seoul, Korea, back in 88, and after Ben Johnson, Charlie's star athlete, got caught, the entire track team had to go through meeting after meeting to deal with the aftermath.  We were told we could not wear our Canadian Track Uniform to the practice track and if somebody asked us, we had to deny we were on the Canadian Track Team.  Those of us whom had chosen to stay clean, still were wiped with the same brush.  The Canadian Press at home had articles saying the whole team was on steroids.  We were told that if we spoke to the press we would be sent home, and would never again represent Canada.  Another distance runner and I asked our Federation if we could all be tested to prove our innocence, even make it voluntary.  This was voted down by the Track Coaches, (in order to stop other embarrassments I presume).  All the coaches there know which way they voted, and why.  The voting results were not made public.  Charlie's group helped taint the ultimate athletic experience for many of us, and we had unjust suspicions thrown on our careers.

When years later I asked Charlie (who was then banned for life in Canada) if he ever felt a need to apologize to people like me, who had stayed clean, and were adversely affected by his actions. He told me something to the effect that I am a naive young athlete who is stupid to play by the rules.   Thanks Charlie.   Aren't coaches suppose to help 'mold' athletes?  Charlie had a Stanford degree, Ben Johnson had a grade 9 education.  Charlie influenced / encouraged Ben and a host of other athletes to cheat.  He was a smart man who used his influence to bring many an athlete to the 'dark side'.  Fortunately I was not one.

There were other implications for us athletes back then as well.  The Ben Johnson incident also cleared out almost all sponsorship money out of Canada. It was near impossible to get a contract then.  And it also caused Athletics Canada to suffer financially for decades.  This is when all the rules about paying your way on teams, etc came into place.  So, if you have ever complained about having to pay so much to go to world cross, Junior meets, or FISU, this is when it started.

And he certainly didn't change his ways after he was banned for life in Canada.  I saw him down at the Stanford Track on a couple of occasions during the Balco days, telling me he was not working with Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery.  He was still telling me I was an idiot not to do things his way. He was still running with the 'cheating crowd.'  Even after the whole Ben deal, he still didn't change his opinion on cheating.

So, to add on to what Mr. Gardner says, I will say, Charlie led a group that embarrassed our country, helped financially ruin Athletics Canada, encouraged young, impressionable athletes to cheat, and was part of the biggest doping scandals of all time at that point of time in history. 

He also was a knowledgeable sprint coach who knew how to train athletes.  And he was a very intelligent, well spoken man.

When Bernie Maddoff dies should we should say he was a man whom gave a lot to Charity, understood business, loved his wife and thanks to him, the SEC now has some new rules?...............

Like I said, sad when some one dies. 

May he rest in peace. 

He has left his legacy.


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