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Wednesday, August 4, 1999 Published at 17:09 GMT 18:09 UK


Christie: Legend under fire

Linford Christie wins Olympic gold

Linford Christie is one of the best-known athletes of his generation and was the first man to win every major 100m title in world athletics.

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His consistent stand against the use of steroids in the sport made his disqualification for a positive drugs test all the more shocking and - in the twilight of his career - incomprehensible too.

The 39-year-old is an icon to young British athletes as the Jamaican boy from west London who went on to win the 1992 Olympic 100m gold.

Whispering campaign

But despite Christie's attempts to cast himself as the "Mr Clean" of an event dogged by high profile drugs disgraces, most notably Canada's twice-banned Ben Johnson, he has faced allegations of using performance enhancing drugs before.

[ image: Christie running in 1999]
Christie running in 1999
Even the fact that his results have come back negative in over 100 drug tests - a "virtual impossibility" for a persistent banned-substance user according to one sports doctor - a whispering campaign has continued throughout his career.

In the 1988 Olympics, he tested positive for miniscule traces of the stimulant pseudoephedrine. His explanation that it came from a non-banned ginseng product was only narrowly accepted by the authorities.

Then in the summer of 1998, he won £40,000 in libel damages against armed robber-turned-author John McVicar, who claimed that Christie's astonishing achievements were "consistent with the use of anabolic steroids".

'Sexual harrasment'

The case ultimately left the sprinter £50,000 out of pocket, but he believed it was worth it because he had been completely exonerated.

[ image: His controversial Puma contact lenses were banned as advertising]
His controversial Puma contact lenses were banned as advertising
"I am living proof that success achieved after hard, natural, drug-free work lasts so much longer and is so much sweeter," he said at the time.

Christie's record is quite remarkable, with a haul of 23 major titles as he shot from 156th to 4th in the world rankings for his event. He has even received an OBE in recognition of his services to British athletics.

His sometimes controversial pronouncements - such as accusing reporters of "sexual harrasment" for referring to his famous "lunchbox" running suit - were always tempered in the public eye by the fact that he had won gold in the highest profile Olympic event of all.

[ image: Russell Christie: Stabbed to death]
Russell Christie: Stabbed to death
As former British 400 metres champion Derek Redmond once said of Christie: "He is perfectly balanced- he's got a chip on both shoulders."

And perhaps not without cause, given his fraught private life. Russell, his younger brother and a career petty criminal, was stabbed to death at the age of 34 on London's Portobello Road.

Since effectively retiring from serious competition, Christie has pursued a successful career as a promoter and trainer to upcoming young British talent, such as the sub-10 second sprinter Darren Campbell.

Christie's career record

1980 First appearance for Britain.
1986 Wins the European 200m indoor title, second in Commonwealth Games 100m, European 100m title.
1987 Third in World Championships 100m.
1988 Moves up to silver medal from bronze in the 100m of the Olympics in Seoul after gold medal winner Ben Johnson tested positive for steroids.
1990 Wins Commonwealth Games 100m, European 100m titles.
1991 Fourth in World Championships 100m, setting a new European record of 9.92secs.
1992 Becomes the oldest man, aged 32, to win the Olympic 100m title with a time of 9.96secs in Barcelona.
1993 Wins World Championship100m, setting another new European record of 9.87secs.
1994 Retains both European 100m title and Commonwealth Games 100m title.
1995 Sets his first world record, recording 20.25secs in indoor 200m, aged 34.
1996 Disqualified for two false starts in Olympic 100m in Atlanta.
1997 Officially retires.
1999 Banned after testing positive for metabolites of nandrolone while racing at an exhibition event in Dusseldorf.

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