Linford Cicero Christie OBE (born 2 April 1960) is a Jamaican-born British former sprinter. He is the only British man to have won gold medals in the 100 metres at all four major competitions open to British athletes: the Olympic Games, the World Championships, the European Championships and the Commonwealth Games. He was the first European to break the 10-second barrier in the 100 m and still holds the British record in the event. He is a former world indoor record holder over 200 metres, and a former European record holder in the 60 metres, 100 m and 4 × 100 metres relay.
Christie narrowly escaped sanction after testing positive for a prohibited substance in 1988. Following another failed drug test in 1999 he was banned from competition by IAAF.
Christie was born in Saint Andrew, Jamaica, where he was brought up by his grandmother. At the age of seven he followed his parents, who had emigrated to Acton, London, England, five years before. He was educated at Henry Compton Secondary School in Fulham, London and excelled in physical education. He competed in the very first London Youth Games in 1977 for the borough of Hammersmith & Fulham. He also joined the Air Training Corps in 1978, 336 (Hammersmith) Squadron. He did not take up athletics seriously until he was 19.
Christie's early track career was not promising. He failed to make the Great Britain team for the 1984 Summer Olympics, not even being included in the sprint relay squad. It was not until he began to work in earnest under the coaching of Ron Roddan that he began to fulfill his potential.
At the 1987 World Championships in Athletics in Rome, Christie came fourth in the 100 m, but was later awarded the bronze medal, when winner Ben Johnson was disqualified after admitting years of steroid use.
At the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Christie won the 100 m silver behind Carl Lewis after Ben Johnson, who set a world record in 9.79 seconds, was disqualified following a positive drug test for anabolic steroids. Christie's time was 9.97 seconds, a new European record by 0.03 seconds and only the second time anyone had ever broken the ten-second barrier and not won the race.
Christie faced a disciplinary hearing himself in Seoul because of an adverse drug test for the banned stimulant pseudoephedrine after he ran in the heats of the 200 m. The hearing panel decided by a single vote to give Christie "the benefit of the doubt", so no sanction was applied.
In 1992, Christie became the third British athlete to win the Olympic 100 m, after Harold Abrahams and Allan Wells, winning the title ahead of Frankie Fredericks of Namibia at the Barcelona Olympic Games.
In the absence of his great rival Lewis, Christie ran 9.96 s in the final, and at the age of 32 years 121 days became the oldest Olympic 100 m champion by four years 38 days.
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 in his fastest ever time of 9.87. He was also voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year. The following year, in 1994, he defended his Commonwealth title in Victoria in his second fastest ever 100m time of 9.91.
After 1994, he was less successful. Christie was disqualified in the 1996 Olympic final after two false starts. He retired from representative international competition in 1997, although he continued to make appearances at invitation meetings.
In February 1999, Christie competed in an indoor meet in Dortmund, Germany. A routine unannounced drug test found the banned substance nandrolone. After a six-month delay, a disciplinary hearing was convened by the British Athletic Federation which found Christie to be not guilty. But the IAAF overruled and confirmed a two-year suspension. Christie is also banned for life from British Olympic Association teams.
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 had worn contact lenses embossed with the Puma logo at the press conference preceding the 100 m final. Reebok had paid $40 million 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.
Though more famous as a 100 m runner, Christie broke the world indoor record over 200 m with 20.25 s at Liévin in 1995, and remains the third fastest sprinter on the all-time list. He remains the British record-holder at 100 m, with the 9.87 s he ran at the 1993 World Championships.
In 1998, less than six months before his first positive drug test, Christie 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 performance-enhancing drugs.
The jury found in Christie's favour by a 10–2 majority. The judge ordered that McVicar should be bound by an injunction restraining him from accusing Christie of taking banned substances. The modest £40,000 damages awarded were outweighed by the legal costs that Christie incurred to bring the case.
During this case, Christie raised another of his grievances with the media – comments about the figure-hugging running suits that Christie wore in his races. The term Linford's lunchbox had been coined by The Sun newspaper 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 breasts … I think it is disgusting, I don't like it at all." In court, the judge Mr Justice Popplewell, caused hilarity 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 positive drug test Christie – who had worked as a presenter on the BBC children's programme Record Breakers and also had a contract with BBC Sport – has spent less time as a public figure and has devoted most of his time to managing his company.
Reflecting upon his track career, he stated: "I will have no complaints if people remember me as one of the best athletes in the world." Away from the track, Christie, a keen amateur gardener, also co-hosted the BBC series Garden Invaders.
In 1993 the West London Stadium was renamed the Linford Christie Stadium in his honour. Christie's famous claim that he started races on the "B of the Bang" inspired a large public sculpture of the same name. Erected as a celebration of the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, it was officially unveiled by Christie in 2004. Owing to safety concerns, it was dismantled in 2009. In the 1996 Summer Olympics, he was disqualified due to two false starts.
Christie tested positive for the stimulant pseudoephedrine at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, but he escaped sanction after the International Olympic Committee's disciplinary committee voted by a margin of 11 to 10.
At the 1994 European championships staged in Helsinki, where British team captain Christie won his third European 100 m title, he was caught up in a doping controversy after Solomon Wariso, a 400 m runner making his international championship debut, tested positive for the stimulant ephedrine. Wariso revealed that he had used an over-the-counter pick-you-up called "Up Your Gas", which Christie had bought at a Florida pharmacy.
In 1999, Christie was found guilty of using the performance-enhancing drug nandrolone following a doping test after an indoor meet in Germany. He was found to have more than 100 times normal levels of the metabolites of nandrolone in his urine. Various explanations were offered to explain the results, including eating avocado, or using nutritional supplements.
The IAAF rejected that explanation and gave Christie a two-years ban from athletics, despite UK Athletics feeling that there was reasonable doubt whether the drug had been taken deliberately, a decision which ignored the usual drug testing principle of "strict liability".
Christie has always denied any wrongdoing. "If I took drugs there had to be a reason to take drugs. I had pretty much retired from the sport." Furthermore, he denied that his physique was gained through drug use and promoted an anti-steroid approach: "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."
Following the ban, the British Olympic Association announced that Christie would not be accredited for any future Olympic Games, in accordance with their regulations.
Christie hosted the BBC show Record Breakers from 1998 to 2000. In 2000 he made his acting debut in the BBC programme Grange Hill. Later he appeared in another BBC programme Hustle. In 2010, Christie appeared on the UK ITV television channel's I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! show, subsequently becoming the sixth person to be eliminated, on 30 November 2010.
In the successful London bid for the 2012 Olympic Games, Christie was absent from the team, even though he has stated that he attempted to get involved. Christie has cited an ongoing feud between himself and former teammate 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 teammate, Derek Redmond, said he was "a well-balanced athlete; he has a chip on both shoulders."
However, in April 2006 it was announced that Christie 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 drugs ban. "I don't think he should be in that mentor role," said Paula Radcliffe, the marathon world record-holder. "We have to make sure that the people in that mentor role have an integrity and strong sense of ethics and morals."
The BOA has confirmed that their ban on Olympic accreditation for Christie remains in place. He was, however, invited to be one of the carriers of the 2008 Olympic Torch on its journey through London, although he was unable to accept because of coaching commitments.
As of 2009, Christie's British record of 9.87 seconds in the 100 metres makes him the third fastest European in history; second only to Francis Obikwelu's 9.86 s personal best which broke Christie's European record, and the same time achieved by French sprinter Jimmy Vicaut. His 100 m personal best fares favourably in comparison with his contemporaries: Carl Lewis and Frankie Fredericks managed 9.86 s while Leroy Burrell ran 9.85 s. Christie broke the ten-second barrier nine times, and was the first European to break the ten-second barrier. In the 1988 100 metres Olympic final, he became the first man to break the ten-second barrier and not win the race. In the 1991 100 metres World Championships final, he became the first man to break the ten-second barrier and come fourth, running 9.92 seconds.
His gold medal performances in world, European, Commonwealth and Olympic competitions rank him as one of the most successful 100 m sprinters in international events. He won 10 gold medals and a total of 24 medals over his career in major championships; the record for any British male athlete. He was the third Briton, after Harold Abrahams and Allan Wells, and the fifth European to win the 100 m at the Olympic Games. He remains the oldest male athlete to win the 100 metres at the Olympics at the age of 32.
In the 4 × 100 m relay event Christie's performance as anchor, alongside Colin Jackson, Tony Jarrett and John Regis, set a European record of 37.77 s at the 1993 World Championships. This was beaten six years later by a 37.73 s run by a British team, which included his protégé Darren Campbell. However, Christie's team's performance is still the second fastest 4 x 100 m performance by a European team and one of the best by a non-United States relay team.
Over 60 m, Christie set a European record of 6.47 s in 1995 which was beaten by fellow Briton Jason Gardener in 1999 with 6.46 s. Christie has the fourth fastest time over the distance for a European after Gardener, Ronald Pognon and the current European record holder Dwain Chambers.
Christie also holds 3 current 35–39 masters age group world records. On 23 September 1995, Christie set the current M35 world record of 9.97 in the 100 m. On 25 June 1995 he set the current M35 world record in the 200 m in 20.11 seconds and on 3 January 1997 Christie set the current indoor record in the M35 60 m in a time of 6.51 seconds.
|19 February 1995||60 metres||Liévin, France||6.47|
|15 August 1993||100 metres||Stuttgart, Germany||9.87 (UK national record)|
|4 September 1994||150 metres||Sheffield, United Kingdom||14.97|
|28 September 1988||200 metres||Seoul, South Korea||20.09|
On 8 May 2010, Christie caused a head-on crash with a taxi as a result of driving on the wrong side of the A413 road in Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire. Four people, including a newly-wed couple, were hurt.
|Awards and achievements|
|BBC Sports Personality of the Year
|Men's European Athlete of the Year
|European Record Holder Men's 100 m
24 September 1988 – 22 August 2004