Charlie Francis has died

I have not stopped crying since I heard the news.

Charlie’s honest and openness has helped shape me as a coach and further make an impact in my athletes lives as well, helping them earn scholarships, professional sports contracts, and even just the varsity team.

Everyday session I have, I always ask myself “What would Charlie do in this situation?” His positive influence in my life, and in the athletic world will never be forgotten. I am forever grateful for the time he spent on this forum answering everyone’s questions, the time put into his philosophy, and personally the time he spent with me on my visits to Toronto. Like many, he will live inside each of us because of his efforts in helping others.

KK thanks for the post and update

Wow… can’t believe it. Speed trap was the first book I had ever read about sprinting… and the CF training system the second. He has taught the world of track and field so much… still can’t believe this is true as I too thought initially it was a twisted joke. Prayers to Charlie, his family and friends.

Charlie the man.
People have asked me what was Charlie like? To me he seemed down to earth and pretty comfortable with his lot. He entertained with anecdotes and insights. No question was dodged. There was no false modesty, bragging or PR speak in his delivery, it was a matter of simply presenting things as they are.[/QUOTE]

John - a very good description of how I learned to know Charlie on the Forum!

I was SO sad to hear the news. Charlie was my icon as a coach - I think he never enjoyed the acknowledgement which he deserved. I have enjoyed my contact with him - on the forum - and will treasure the DVD’s that I have.

Thinking of and praying for you, Angie and James.

Charlie looking sharp:

Not sure if this one has been posted yet, but quite an informative & balanced tribute to Charlie.

Francis was more than just a coach
13 May 2010

They went through hell and heaven together.

But in the end, the bond between Ben Johnson and Charlie Francis, was never completely broken.

And the love Johnson felt for his former coach never ceased.

“I will always have a lot of love for Charlie,” an emotional Johnson told the Toronto Sun. “I never stopped being Charlie’s friend. Charlie and I were always friends, never mind what happened in the past.

“I’m very sad.”

Francis died on Thursday after a five-year battle with cancer. He was 61.

Perhaps Canadian track and field guru Cecil Smith said it best in describing Francis.

“I think you’d be a hypocrite if you only thought of Charlie in one way,” said Smith.

Completely true.

To some, Francis will be remembered as one of the top minds in track. To most of his athletes, he was more than a coach. He was a friend and mentor.

But, of course, the unfortunate side to Francis’ legacy was his decision, those many years ago, to put the best of his flock — Ben Johnson, Angella Issajenko, Mark McKoy, Desai Williams — on performance enhancing drugs. He did it, he said, to level the playing field.

“His knowledge was unquestionable. Unfortunately, like many people of talent, there was a tendency to try to go beyond expectations and in order to do that, one stepped over the mark. And that’s what happened with Charlie,” said Smith. “He did level the playing field, but the way he went about it will forever be a source of controversy.”

Long before Johnson broke the 100 metre world record (9.79 seconds) at the 1988 Seoul Olympics to win the gold medal (which was later taken away after his positive test for the steroid Stanozolol), Francis maintained that the best track and field athletes in the world were using steroids, and getting away with it.

Only years later, was it shown that he was correct.

But for most of his former athletes, including Johnson and his greatest female sprinter, Issajenko, Francis will be remembered more for his compassion and loyalty than for his technical prowess on the track.

“Charlie would have done anything for us,” said Issajenko, who first joined Francis at the Scarborough Optimists Club when she was a teenager running with the boy’s relay team at Parkdale Collegiate. “Charlie would have given you the last shirt off his back, he cared about us so much. I never wanted to leave him, not even after I got a scholarship to Arizona.”

When Issajenko’s youngest daughter, Sophie, was born, Francis become her godfather. Smith, a long time track and field meet director in Ontario, including the Hamilton Indoor Games, witnessed first hand how Francis fought for his athletes.

“If everything wasn’t just perfect for his athletes, he’d let you hear about it,” said Smith. “If a wind gauge was off, or the air conditioning inside wasn’t right, he’d be on you until it was straightened out.”

When the Dubin Inquiry was established in 1989 following Johnson’s positive drug test in Seoul, it was Francis who set the table early in the proceedings by revealing the extent of the use of steroids in international track and field. Johnson and others followed. He was later banned from coaching in Canada as a result of his testimony.

Smith said that Francis warned the world for years that athletes from many of the track and field superpowers were using performance enhancers and was one of the first outsiders to reveal that the East Germans had set up drug labs in ships at Olympics, including the 1976 Montreal Games — though, at the time, his charges were largely ignored. Documents released in 2009 proved that to be the case — officials from the former GDR dumped leftover serum and syringes in the St. Lawrence River following the Montreal Games.

Francis’ assertions that he gave his athletes steroids only to level the playing field were also shot down. Again, years later, it was proven that virtually every sprinter in the 100 metre final in Seoul, used performance enhancing drugs at one time, including American Carl Lewis who was awarded the gold after Johnson’s disqualification.

Francis was born on Oct. 13, 1948 in Toronto and was once one of Canada’s best sprinters, winning the national 100 metre title from 1970 to 1973. He represented Canada at the 1972 Munich Olympics, reaching the second round. His personal best in the 100 was a 10.1, recorded at the Pan Am Games in Vancouver in 1971.

He then went to Stanford University on a track scholarship and after retiring as an athlete, became a coach — guiding his athletes to some 250 Canadian records, 32 world records and won nine Olympic medals.

In later years, Francis became a highly sought after personal trainer, working with clients ranging from businessmen to professional athletes in the NBA, NFL and NHL, including former Maple Leaf forward Tie Domi. who hired Francis to help him become a better all-round athlete.

“He’s an intelligent man and I was quite impressed,” Domi said in 2003 of Francis. “He’s on a different planet than we all are, it’s scary really. I can’t really understand half the words he says, but I’m still using his methods today.”

Francis worked with American sprinters Tim Montgomery and Marion Jones for a time in 2003. It was discovered later that they both had used performance enhancing drugs, though Francis was never linked with their drug use.

He also authored two books on sprinting, Speed Trap and Training for Speed, and operated a popular internet sprint training forum (

Five years ago this past April, Francis was diagnosed with Mantle Cell Lymphoma, a relatively rare form of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

“He fought it very hard,” said his brother Barry Francis on Thursday. “Because of his young son, he wanted to extend his life as long as possible.”

Barry said that Charlie had become a big fan of the Montreal Canadiens as he once worked with Habs star Mike Cammalleri before the Toronto native made it big in professional hockey.

“He was very excited about how well the Canadiens were doing in the playoffs,” said Barry.

Barry said that his brother was at Sunnybrook Hospital for a round of chemotherapy and was expecting to return home sometime this week. A stem cell match had recently been located and Francis was optimistic at the prospect of a successful transplant.

“I spent two hours with him (on Tuesday) and he was alert and really quite with it,” said Barry. “He was very excited about all the hockey playoff games going on.”

Barry said that Charlie was lucid and talking right until his condition took a sudden turn for the worse on Wednesday morning. His family and close friends was notified and were with him when he passed away, including his wife, former national team hurdler, Angie Coon, and their 11-year-old son James.

Johnson was also able to see him on Tuesday morning before he passed.

Funeral arrangements will be handled by the Humphrey Funeral Home — A.W. Miles Chapel in Toronto, with very details to be announced.

My sincere condolences to Angela and James… Thank you for sharing such an amazing man with us for so many years. May God keep and comfort you.

I also thank Charlie and everyone one on this Forum for reshaping my thinking and performance in this wonderful world of sprinting. I will cherish every DVD, book and picture of the man who will continue to live in my sprint paradigm, teaching and performance. Comfort and Peace to every heart impacted by the great Charlie Francis…

I have never met Charlie, I have only ever been a member of his forum.

To me he was a honest man who risked everything because of his honesty.

Charlie Francis I salute you, to his wife Angie and son James, God bless.


Rest in peace Charlie…

I don’t know what to say, my eyes speak better now, but I will add that from the day I started visiting, training took a different toll, on all aspects of sport, and life. It’s not simply a methodology, it’s an art of combining logical philosophies in complex situations… He was so talented in doing it…

Meeting Charlie last spring for a training session was beyond good. He was a man-mentor, projecting the kindest heart and most useful knowledge. He still remains one of the best mentors who passed.

At times like these, we all wish we had done something different; I wish I had gone to Toronto after that session, to train more with him.

We are left with the information and memory. I hold both to my heart, and once again say Thank You.


RIP Mr Francis, you truly where a consummate and prolific Track and Field coach who set the standard, so that many other like minded coaches may follow in your prodigious trailblazing steps.

Your memory will surely permeate and live on through the sands of time, through your innovative, pragmatical, and thought provoking philosophies that will be studied, referenced and applied by many future generations of athletes and coaches to come. I think i can say on behalf of the collective members of this forum, thank you for input and guidance in regards to our own personal and complex journey to beat the clock. God Bless and much love to you and your family.

We have lost a great

My wife rang me on the way to work to tell me the news as she knew how I felt about how much I have been influenced by a guy I have never even met.

Since I picked up Speed Trap in a library as a young teenager and realised there was a higher level of coaching and thinking my athletics as an athlete and now as a coach has been largely shaped by the influence from afar. I have read Speed Trap almost every year since that first time when I would get the book on continual loan as I felt it too special to be allowed for just anyone to take it off the shelf and have it in their home without knowing what they were in possession of.

I hand a ‘loan out’ copy of the book to every athlete I coach as it is the closest thing I can get to have them understand what its all about.

The man had so much knowledge and was feeling giving of it. My condolences to his family and friends and the athletics world to have lost such an influence.

We need to keep this site alive in his memory and continue to spread his word.

Very sad news. Charlie was the greatest track coach in history. Hopefully his legacy will live on…

r.i.p. Charlie ‘GODFATHER OF SPEED MERCHANTRY’ Francis, with great sorrow u will be missed…condolences goin out to ur wife and son

Rest in peace, Charlie! My condolences to his family!

My condolences for his family!!
I’ve lost my father 2 months ago and i know how tough is to recover for the family!!I still have disorder to sleep and I go to the cemetery every day and I speak to him!!
We have to keep everyone at least one good thing he did for us and he will live again!Don’t let the forum go down folks!I’m not up to date but I read it almost every day because I find only good things on it.
So let’s bring our hands,let’s a tear falling fron our eyes but let’s go to work for Charlie and his dear family and for all the friends he had!!!:frowning:

Thanks for the update KK if if it did make me cry… as always he went out fighting with hope in his heart.

i am in deep shock…

thank you for everything charlie, we learned a lot from you and will miss you…you are an inspiration to all of us here

My condolences for his family

“I was crying. He said, ‘don’t cry sweetie: It’s been a good run.’ And it has been”.
officially made me cry…


So sad.R.I.P Great man.
And thoughts go at to Ange and James .