The man who chaired the inquiry into the Ben Johnson drug scandal says disgraced track coach Charlie Francis should be allowed to work in athletics again.

"Mr. Francis has paid a high penalty with respect to his past mistakes. He is a very talented coach, and in my opinion, having regard to the passage of time and the truthful manner in which he assisted my inquiry, it is appropriate to allow him once again to work with elite track and field athletes," Charles Dubin told Canadian Press on Wednesday.

"I am confident that he will do so with integrity and dedication and, in my respectful opinion, he should be afforded the opportunity to do so," Dubin added.

Francis, the coach behind Johnson's steroid-assisted world record and revoked 1988 Olympic gold medal, was banned for life by Athletics Canada more than a decade ago.

But Francis can still work with athletes from other countries and in recent days rumours have surfaced that the blacklisted Canadian coach has been working with American sprinting couple Tim Montgomery and Marion Jones.

That possibility worries some members of track and field's world governing body.

According to the Times of London, the International Association of Athletics Federations is checking into a possible link between the two sprinters and Francis.

The IAAF investigation is a result of concern from meet organizers of the Golden League, a series of seven track and field meets in Europe.

The Times says Golden League organizers, concerned that Montgomery and Jones' reputations could be at risk as a result of any association with Francis, raised the issue at an IAAF working group meeting on Dec. 20.

"If this association is true, I will be quite strong on this," Svein Arne Hansen, director of Oslo's Bislett Games, told the Times. "And we will all take the same position."

Montgomery and Jones left their former coach Trevor Graham last month to join little known Vancouver-based trainer, Derek Hansen. However, the pair has been spotted training with Francis in Toronto.

The IAAF will report back at its next meeting on Mar. 17, so directors can decide what action, if any, should be taken.

"Our official position, is that, according to our rules, there is nothing we can do legally," IAAF spokesman Nick Davies told the Times.

"But from an ethical point of view, we are trying to establish what's going on and to see if Marion and Tim will review their decision. There must be hundreds of excellent sprint coaches in the United States."

Francis has not commented on reports he is working with the sprinters.

Montgomery set a new 100-metre world record of 9.78 in September and split with Graham less than three months later. Jones, coming off an undefeated season, also left Graham, her second coach in three years.

She split with former coach and husband, American shotputter C.J. Hunter, after the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Hunter has since been banned from competition after testing positive for steroids on four separate occasions.

with files from Canadian Press