I think we've heard this one before. It goes something like, "I did it because everybody else was doing it."
The "it" in this case was taking steroids.And the above is precisely the rationale Charlie Francis gave as to why Ben Johnson had been taking steroids since 1981 and why other athletes he coached were taking steroids as early as 1979.
Would you please give us a break, Charlie and Ben? And all others who will surely follow.
The public is getting tired of the "everybody's doing it" cop-out. It's too convenient. The people who use it absolve themselves from having to be honest. The only sin to them - which is the one Johnson committed at the Olympic Games - is getting caught.
Even after Johnson was caught, the lies continued to pour forth. Johnson denied ever having used steroids and suggested that somebody must have tampered with his water bottle.
And Francis, the man who is now explicitly detailing how he gave injections to Johnson and other athletes, was telling a much different story in Seoul when the scandal broke. Somebody must have sabotaged the tests, Francis said then.
So why is Francis coming clean now? Probably because the evidence is so overwhelming and because the Canadian government, greatly embarrassed by the scandal, has let him know in no uncertain terms it will accept only the truth at the inquiry it is conducting.
Still, do you get the feeling these people say whatever is in their best interest at the time?
Assuming Francis is being truthful now, the sad part about his testimony is how matter-of-factly he makes his statements. To him it's inconceivable that record-setting performances can be made without cheating.
Which is why he not only implicates Johnson and other members of the Canadian track team but other countries as well - particularly the United States and the Soviet Union.
What Francis has set in motion is something track and field may never recover from. Assuming there's some truth to what he says about how widespread illegal drug use is, all of the world and Olympic records
may have to be wiped from the books - at least the modern era ones where steroids and such innovative "enhancement" techniques as blood doping became available.
Who would be able to tell which records are drug free and which aren't? Testing, apparently, hasn't worked. According to Francis, it took seven years for Johnson to get caught.
Thursday Francis detailed how a steroid program helped Johnson set the world record in the 100 meters at the World Championships in 1987 in Rome. He detailed the procedures used to avoid detection.
So, Francis is telling us the 1987 world record was tainted. Since Johnson's world record was nullified because of steroid detection at the Seoul Olympics, shouldn't the one he set in 1987 also be nullified if, in fact, he was on steroids?
Where will it end?
Not with the inquiry in Canada.