Some things never change

STEVE SIMMONS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

The mumbling voice on the telephone says nothing much has changed. "Everything I said then, stands now."

Then was 18 years ago.

Then was the shocking educational steroids testimony that outlined the depth and breadth of cheating in the sporting world that turned Charlie Francis into a coaching pariah.

"I don't think a lot has changed," Francis said in a lengthy interview about the troubled state of sports. "Every day there's something. Every day another story ... There have been something like 11,000 positive tests since Seoul."

And what once deemed a problem exclusive to track and field has, as Francis testified at the Dubin Inquiry in 1989, infected almost all of sport.

Any day now, Barry Bonds, alleged drug user, will become the career home run champion, the record of all sporting records. This is a most uneasy time for baseball, finding a way to balance celebration, ambivalence and disgust with a sporting public divided between performance and performance enhancing: And a massive audience unsure of what to think, what to believe in, what to admire anymore.

"It isn't just the drugs," said Francis, talking about Bonds. "They (the public) don't like Bonds. I think that's part of this (reaction). If he was someone they liked, maybe it would be different."

So what does Francis think of the home run record moving from Babe Ruth to Hank Aaron to Bonds?

"There were no rules broken," he said. "There was no testing. You can't retroactively change the rules to suit whatever you might think ... They are blaming (Bonds) for things that were invented in 1936 and 1955."

Francis does wonder about the hypocrisy of baseball players who question Bonds but fail to question what else was going on during the supposed steroid years?

According to more than one source, when baseball secretly tested players for performance enhancing drugs and didn't release the names of those players, a high percentage of the positive tests -- maybe as high as 80% -- came from pitchers.

"If that's the case, doesn't it kind of even out?" asked Francis, 58. "You think, who's bitching the loudest about Bonds? The pitchers are screaming the loudest. I think, the lady doth protest too much."

While removed from the spotlight when banished from track and field, Francis never has removed himself from sport. He remains today one of the world's foremost experts on speed, the concept, not the drug. His website, CharlieFrancis.com, is a virtual mall of sprinting tools. Quietly, he has worked with high-end professional athletes from almost every sport. Quietly, even in the drug-conscious National Football League, he has been a consultant for numerous teams, players and coaches.

And all the while he has maintained a critical if not involved eye on the meandering of sports, as the demands have changed and so have some of the supplements.

Francis all but sneers -- yes, he hasn't lost that -- at the state of the Tour de France, the great cycling race gone awry. He said in 1989 that drug use was rampant. Nothing has lessened over time.

"You have 200 riders at the Tour de France going to the same doctor," said Francis. "They've got files on them. They've got tapes. They've got urine samples. You have 200 riders doing something and there are next to no positive tests. You have to ask: How effective is their testing?"

He wonders also about new designer drugs and a possible conspiracy involving the International Olympic Committee. Francis truly believes designer drugs are being tested at IOC labs "because you have to know you won't get caught. How do you know if you're not getting test results from the lab prior to competing?"

ALIEN WORLD

But that's what he views from afar. It isn't his game anymore. He has his athlete's health and his own to worry about.

"I have no part in that, it's an alien world to me now. You move on to other things."

It's 19 years since Seoul, 18 since Dubin. "You move on," Charlie Francis said. He moves on. Sport does not.


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