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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)).