Veteran U.S. sprinter Evelyn Ashford, seemingly implicated by track coach Charlie Francis in the Canadian steroid investigation, vehemently maintained her innocence yesterday while suggesting that Carl Lewis and Calvin Smith deserve to share the world record in the 100 meters, that an asterisk might be necessary for many world marks set before this year and that when the sport is cleaned of drug use, some existing records might be unreachable. "In a way, all of this probably is good," said Ashford, one of track and field's leading advocates for stricter drug testing. "Drug use in our sport has been a problem for a long time. I blame our system for letting it go on so long. It's time to clean it up." Ashford, who has won three Olympic gold medals in her career, was drawn into the controversy surrounding the Toronto drug hearings in a roundabout manner. In testimony Wednesday, Francis apparently implicated Ashford and Pat Connolly, her former coach, when he testified he was told "a prominent female coach who was also a former athlete" had asked for Dianabol to give to her "prominent American female sprinter." His references to timing and to other people made it clear he was talking about the two American women. "It's his sales pitch," Ashford said yesterday by telephone from her home in Southern California. "He tells all his athletes these things -- that everyone else is on drugs and that the only way to compete is to take drugs. Right now, this is his sales pitch to the world. "He's trying to persuade the world that you can't run fast unless you take drugs. He believes it. I think he feels that if he can convince the world that everyone is doing it, what he did won't sound so bad. Well, it won't work. He's wrong. Everyone is not doing it." Ashford also objected to Francis' claim that her times in the 100 meters dropped dramatically in 1979. "My times didn't drop dramatically in 1979. It was a natural progression for me {from 11.16 to 10.97 that year}. It took me eight years to run 10.76 {the world record broken by Florence Griffith Joyner last summer}," said Ashford, who set her world record in 1984. Both Ashford and Connolly said that Ashford's "incremental" time progression in the sprints is in itself proof that she never used performance-enhancing steroids. "We're furious," said Connolly, a three-time Olympian who lives in Silver Spring. "Evelyn's own progression was in small increments, year by year. She was not running astonishing times. In fact, she was frustrated with her times. She was never satisfied with her performances." Griffith Joyner, who retired from running last weekend after astonishing the track world with her world records in the 100 and 200 meters at the U.S. Olympic trials and at the Olympics, lowered Ashford's record four times in one weekend last July. Griffith Joyner's existing mark is 10.49 seconds. Griffith Joyner also was implicated by Francis' testimony, as he suggested the recent progression of records in the women's 100 meters would be impossible without chemical aid. When Griffith Joyner retired, she acknowledged that some in her sport had suggested it was because of imminent random drug testing, but said such comments were based on jealousy by other competitors. Connolly said yesterday she believes Ashford should still hold the women's 100-meter record. Both Ashford and Connolly said Lewis and Smith should be declared the world record-holders in the men's 100 meters based on Francis' testimony that Ben Johnson was taking steroids prior to the 1987 world championships in Rome. Johnson ran 9.83 in Rome and Lewis 9.93, tying Smith's old record set at altitude in 1983. "Carl and Calvin deserve the world record," Ashford said. "Will they get it? No, because the authorities won't admit their system didn't work." One official is wondering, however. The Rome laboratory that tested athletes at the 1987 world championships could have missed the presence of steroids in Johnson's system, said Dr. Arne Ljungqvist, vice president and head of drug testing for the International Amateur Athletic Federation. Still, the IAAF said Thursday that it would not strip Johnson of his world record because, "Legally, it is not possible to go back in time." Johnson ran 9.79 seconds in Seoul, but was stripped of that record when he lost his gold medal. Ashford, 31, who still is competing, said there may be big changes in her sport when random, out-of-competition drug testing takes affect, perhaps as early as this year in the United States. "Maybe we'll need asterisks in the record book, or maybe there will have to be two categories, like in body-building. A category for people on steroids and a category for people not on steroids," she said. Several athletes have discussed the possibility that existing records will be unreachable when athletes are subject to random testing, which is much stricter than after-competition testing. "Standards will drop dramatically," Ashford said. "The natural athletes can't run that fast, can't jump that far. It probably will set things back. It will be a slow evolution over time to get times and distances back to where they are now." Ashford said this public-relations nightmare is one of the reasons officials have been "reluctant" to clean steroids from track and field. Others have suggested the weights of implements like the shot and discus will have to be reduced if distances are to remain the same as now. "The reason the decision-makers don't want things to change is that it will be so dramatic," she said.