May 12 - Charlie Francis, the disgraced former coach of Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, died today in a hospital in Toronto after a five-year battle with cancer, his family said in a statement.

He was 61.

Johnson won the 1988 Olympic 100 metres but was stripped of his gold medal and world-record time after he tested positive for the banned steroid stanozolol.

Francis told a national inquiry that he introduced Johnson to steroids.

He trained several of Canada's top athletes before the ban and afterward worked briefly with disgraced American sprinters Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery.

A Canadian sprint champion himself, Francis was considered a leading expert on sprinting despite his association with steroid use.

Francis had helped shape Johnson into the world's fastest man when the Jamaican-born athlete won the 100m at the 1988 Seoul Olympics in 9.79sec.

A subsequent Canadian Government inquiry, headed by Charles Dubin, heard testimony from Francis in 1989 that Johnson was one of many Canadian athletes taking banned substances.

"I think he was stuck in the same situation as I would be stuck in," Francis testified.

"He could decide either he wanted to participate at the highest levels in sport or not. If he wanted to compete,

"it's pretty clear that steroids are worth approximately a metre at the highest levels of sport.

"And he could decide to set up his starting blocks at the same line as all the other competitors in the international competition or set them a metre behind them all.

"And obviously that would be an unacceptable situation for a top-level athlete."

The country's governing body, Athletics Canada, barred Francis for life but he was unrepentant.

In a 1990 interview with CBC he said: "The only way to go back into [track] is to sort of act like, 'Oh, I was wrong.

"'Drugs aren't necessary, gee kids,' and adopt the party line and go through some miraculous Saul-like conversion and come back out and toe the party line, and I'm not prepared to do that."