TORONTO - Charles Dubin, a former top judge who was best known for heading an inquiry into drug use in amateur sport, has died. He was 87.

The former chief justice of Ontario died Monday of pneumonia after being admitted to hospital a week ago, said his longtime friend, Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Robert Armstrong.

Dubin was appointed to the province's top court in 1973 and was tapped to head several inquiries, most notably the high-profile commission that formed after sprinter Ben Johnson was stripped of his gold medal for testing positive for anabolic steroids at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Dubin had vast legal experience, but also happened to be a "huge sports fan," Armstrong said.

"Basically, his approach was to leave no stone unturned -- to go out and get the evidence and then put it before him," he said.

Dubin's groundbreaking report exposed one of the darkest secrets in the sports world and helped restore Canada's reputation on the world stage, said Canadian Olympic official Dick Pound.

The inquiry also broke the "code of omerta" about the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports, said Pound, who served as president of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

At the time, doping was particularly prevalent in the former East Bloc countries, but few realized how common it was among western athletes, he said.

"Nobody talked about it and it was just ignored, but certainly everybody was doing it," Pound said.

"I mean Charlie Francis, who was Ben's (Johnson) coach, said, `Listen, if I'm not giving my athletes this stuff, they start a metre behind in a 100-metre race."'

Francis said Monday that while he didn't agree with all of Dubin's recommendations, he believes he was treated fairly during the inquiry.

"He wanted to get both sides of the story," he said.

Dubin's wife Anne, also a lawyer, died more than a year ago -- a major blow to the former judge, Armstrong said.

Dubin and his wife had no children, but they are survived by two nieces who were "like daughters to him," said Armstong, who worked with Dubin at the doping inquiry.

The two met when Armstrong went to work for him as a law student in 1964, and Dubin soon became his mentor, Armstrong said.

"He really liked people and was able to relate to people in all walks of life in a very direct and sympathetic way," he said.

"Part of that was his high sense of professionalism. I mean, he was a true professional, a true gentleman, in the best sense of that word."

A "brilliant" courtroom lawyer, Dubin could take on almost any kind of case -- criminal or civil -- and had an almost uncanny ability to cross-examine witnesses, Armstrong said.

Dubin was an avowed opponent of capital punishment before it was abolished in Canada in 1976. He defended 14 men charged with first-degree murder -- none of whom was hanged.

He even defended a dog condemned to death for savaging a boy, and won a last-ditch defence before the Ontario Court of Appeal.

"He was just so good that people thought he should be on the bench, and he was appointed to the (Ontario) Court of Appeal," Armstrong said.

Dubin's inquiry report recommended a broad range of anti-doping measures and criticized coaches, doctors, Athletics Canada, the Olympic movement and the governing body of track and field for the series of events that led to Johnson's disgrace.

Before the Johnson scandal, there was no real evidence that some athletes were using performance-enhancing drugs, Armstrong said.

"What the Dubin inquiry did, in my view, is it broke the conspiracy of silence and laid it all out," he said.

"That information was never before available on the public record. It was never before available under oath. And clearly, it was all true."

In 1979, Dubin headed a Royal Commission into aviation safety that strongly recommended a more significant role for enforcement of safety measures.

The government adopted all of its recommendations, Armstrong said.

Dubin represented former prime minister John Diefenbaker and Davie Fulton at a federal inquiry into the controversy surrounding Gerta Munsinger, an Ottawa socialite accused of spying.

He also headed one of two probes into baby deaths at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

Dubin was born in Hamilton in 1921 and called to the bar in 1944. At 29, he was made Queen's Counsel -- then the youngest person in the Commonwealth to receive the honour.

He was appointed associate chief justice in 1987 and chief justice in 1990.

He served until 1996 and rejoined law firm Torys after his retirement, where he worked in arbitration as well as litigation and dispute resolution.

In 1997, he was named an officer of the Order of Canada for his "profound and lasting effect upon the Canadian judiciary."