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Linford Christie

Linford Christie OBE (born April 2, 1960) is a former world class athlete, and the only British man to win Olympic, World, Commonwealth and European 100 m gold medals. He still holds the UK record. Christie's track career was ended when he received a two-year ban for taking a performance-enhancing substance, although he has continually denied any wrongdoing.

Early years

Christie was born in Saint Andrew, Jamaica and in Jamaica he was brought up by his grandmother. He followed his parents, who had emigrated five years before, to England at the age of seven. He was educated at Henry Compton Secondary School in Fulham, London and excelled in P.E.. He did not take up athletics seriously until he was 19.

Christie's early track career was not promising. He failed to make the GB team at the 1984 Summer Olympics, and it was not until he began to work in earnest under the coaching of Ron Roddan that he began to fulfil his potential.

In 1986, he was the surprise winner of the 100 m at the European Championships and finished second at the Commonwealth Games.

At the 1988 Summer Olympics, Christie won silver behind Carl Lewis after Ben Johnson, who set a new World Record in 9.79 seconds, had been disqualified for a doping offence.

In 1992, he succeeded Allan Wells as a British Olympic 100 m champion, winning the title ahead of Namibian Frankie Fredericks.

At the 1992 Olympic games, Christie was in his prime and though his great rival Carl Lewis was not in Barcelona, the Briton was in fabulous shape. He won the final of the 100m with a time of 9.96s, and in doing so became the oldest Olympic 100m champion by four years.

In 1993, he became the first man in history to hold the Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth titles in the 100 m as he was victorious at the Stuttgart World Championships. He was also voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

After 1994, he was less successful. Christie was disqualified in the 1996 Olympic final after two false starts. He officially retired in 1997.

In 1999, he was persuaded out of semi-retirement by his training group to compete in an indoor meet in Dortmund, Germany. But the routine doping test found traces of the banned substance nandrolone. Although the British Athletic Federation found him to be not guilty, the IAAF overruled and confirmed the suspension.

When the story of the positive drug test was first leaked to the press, it resulted in Puma opting not to continue Christie's £100,000 sponsorship contract. Three years earlier, at the Atlanta Olympics, Christie controversially wore contact lenses embossed with the Puma logo at the press conference preceding the 100 m final. Reebok had paid $40 m to be the official sponsor, and Christie's actions were seen as 'ambush marketing' and a breach of Olympic rules on the wearing of sponsor's logos by athletes.

Linford did set a world record. In 1995 he ran an indoor record of 20.25 for the 200 m but by then the outdoor record was well below 20 secs. He remains the British record holder at 100 m, with the 9.87 s he ran at the 1993 World Championships.

By the end of his track career Christie had won 23 medals overall, more than any other British male athlete before or since. He was appointed MBE in 1990 and OBE in 1998.

Later years and relationship with the press

Ironically, Christie had the previous year won a libel action against the journalist John McVicar. McVicar had insinuated in a satirical magazine that Christie's remarkable rise from 156th in the world to triumph at an age when he should have been in decline could only have been achieved through drugs. Part of the court's decision was that McVicar should be bound by an injunction restraining him from accusing Christie of taking banned substances. Nonetheless the £40,000 damages awarded were outweighed by the cost Christie incurred to bring the case. Commenting afterwards, John McVicar called Christie "The Judy Garland of the 100 metres", referring to the emotional performance that Christie had given before the court.

During this case, Christie raised another of his grievances with the media – comments about the figure-hugging running suits that Christie generally wore. The term Linford's lunchbox had been coined by the media in reference to the bulge of Christie's genitalia in his Lycra shorts. "Linford's lunchbox is one of my grievances with the media. I don't like it … Nobody ever goes on about Sally Gunnell's figure … I think it is disgusting, I don't like it at all." In court, the judge Mr Justice Popplewell, caused hilarity in the court by asking Christie to explain the phrase, asking "What is Linford's lunchbox?" The reference became a part of pop culture, as evidenced in a joke by Nick Hancock: "There's nothing new you can say about Linford Christie, except he's slow and has got a small penis".

Christie's anger at this unwanted attention led to his infamous "newspaper print" running suit, although he has deliberately drawn attention to his body on occasions: he has remarked that "A lot of people have looked at my physique and two things can come into their mind – admiration and envy."and appeared shirtless and flexing his muscles on the BBC youth series Reportage in 1988. In recent years, however, Christie appears to have come to terms with the 'lunchbox' label, disclosing his preference for briefs rather than boxer shorts, and in 2002 becoming the "face" of Sloggi, the men's underwear brand, posing for advertising wearing only underwear.

In 1993 Christie formed a sports management and promotions company, Nuff Respect, with sprint-hurdler Colin Jackson. One of their early products was a sports training and workout video, The S Plan: Get Fit with Christie and Jackson. Jackson was later to leave the enterprise, saying "Linford has to be in control, he has to be number one, he has to be the leader. Since his retirement Linford Christie has spent less time as a public figure and has devoted most of his time to managing his company.

That same year, the West London Stadium was renamed the Linford Christie Stadium in honour of Christie.

Christie's famous claim that he started races on the "B of the Bang" inspired the tallest unsupported sculpture in the UK (of the same name), officially unveiled by Christie in Manchester in 2004. It celebrates the Commonwealth Games held in the city in 2002.

Away from the track, Christie hosted the BBC television children's series Record Breakers for a time until its cancellation in 2001. A keen amateur gardener, he also co-hosted the series Garden Invaders.

Drug ban

Christie tested positive for the stimulant pseudoephedrine at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, but was cleared after the International Olympic Committee voted by a margin of 11 to 10 the substance could have come from the permitted substance ginseng. It was later reported that two of the judges were asleep when the vote was taken. Reference to this is made in a television advert Christie made for Egg online banking in Autumn 1998.

In a separate matter in 1999, Christie was found guilty of using the performance enhancing drug Nandrolone following a routine doping test after an indoor meet in Germany. By this time, Christie was in semi-retirement.

He was found to have metabolites of nandrolone in his urine, which may have been accidentally introduced to his system by taking legal nutritional supplements.

The IAAF rejected that explanation, and gave Christie a two-year ban from athletics, despite UK Athletics feeling that there was 'reasonable doubt whether the drug had been taken deliberately.' The ban did not extend to coaching activities.

Christie has always denied any wrong doing. "If I took drugs there had to be a reason to take drugs. I had pretty much retired from the sport."

Following the ban, the British Olympic Association announced that Christie would not be accredited for any future Olympic Games, in accordance with their regulations. However, despite being unable to go trackside at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, the BOA allowed Christie, coach to several competing athletes, to attend the British training camp in Australia.

Role in the 2012 Olympics

In the successful London bid for the 2012 Olympic Games, Christie was absent from the team, even though he states he attempted to get involved. Christie has cited an ongoing feud between himself and former team-mate Sebastian Coe as a likely reason for the snub, although since 1999 British athletics chiefs had 'overlooked' Christie because of his positive nandrolone test. Commenting on the argument, Christie's team mate, Derek Redmond, said of him "He's a well-balanced athlete; he has a chip on both shoulders.

However in April 2006 it was announced that he would be a senior mentor for athletes on the national team, along with former athletes Steve Backley, Daley Thompson and Katharine Merry. This proved controversial however, due to Christie's previous two-year ban for taking drugs. "I don't think he should be in that mentor role," said Paula Radcliffe, the World marathon record holder. "We have to make sure that the people in that mentor role have an integrity and strong sense of ethics and morals.

In August 2006, for the first time in over six years, he was permitted to go trackside at the European Championships in Gothenburg.

However, the BOA has confirmed that their ban on Olympic accreditation for Christie remains in place, and he will not be permitted access to the Olympic Villages or the trackside, either in Beijing in 2008, or in London in 2012. He was, however, personally invited by Ken Livingstone to be one of the carriers of the 2008 Olympic Torch on its journey through London, but was unable to accept because of coaching commitments.. ((Ken Livingstone's office has disputed the claim that the invitation was from him. See the article referenced)).

Quotes and trivia

  • It does not follow that all athletes who are big take drugs... Only by testing all athletes will the sport be kept clean of drugs.
  • I will have no complaints if people remember me as one of the best athletes in the world.
  • In 1996, Christie's brother Russell was killed after a knife attack, which reports at the time suggested was related to drugs dealing.

References

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External links



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