The Friday Interview: With Linford Christie
Linford Christie has vowed to ‘still be here’ long after those who snubbed him at the London Olympics have been consigned to the athletics archive.
The former sprinter – who was speaking on The Clare Balding Show to be aired on BT Sport this Saturday - tested positive for nandrolone in 1999 during an indoor competition in Dortmund, which resulted in his suspension from the sport by UK Athletics – after he had already officially retired.
The sadness for Christie, and for those who are still full of admiration for the 1992 Olympic gold medal winner, is that one senses his omission from the London 2012 team was due to the failed drugs test.
“At the age of 40, I was never going to another Olympics or another major championship. So people were of the opinion that I needed to take drugs, otherwise what could I possibly win? I think in the race I came second! So, it’s a load of baloney,” Christie said.
“One day, when it all comes out, people will know that I didn’t do it. So I don’t even sweat it, to be honest.”
An added gripe is that many scientists now believe the drug is produced naturally by the body, but despite being part of the bid, Christie was not included on the list of mentors within the Olympic stadium, nor was he a prominent figure in the lead-up to the opening ceremony.“I’m black enough as it is, I don’t need to be told to stand in the darkness!”
The 53-year-old – who was raised in Shepherd’s Bush, West London, having moved as a child from Jamaica - admits that he was asked to be on the roster for when athletes were presented with medals at the Games, but his repost was unequivocal:
“I’m black enough as it is, I don’t need to be told to stand in the darkness!”
It is apparent that Christie felt deserving of a more important role given his contribution to British athletics, and whilst he did coach five athletes at London, a bad taste that still lingers between himself and the British Olympic Association.
“When I was out there putting Britain on the map, they weren’t asking me to stand [as a figurehead], so all of a sudden now just because I’m not as prominent as I was, they want me to stand in the back? I was not interested in doing that,” Christie said.
“There are a lot of jealous people out there. That’s life. I’m still here, and long after all those people who were at the front have faded away, I will still be here."
Now a dedicated coach, Christie’s focus is on producing the next British Olympic 100m champion, and the care and deliberation he now invests in his stable of 20 athletes shows his ties to the sport are stronger than ever.
“I get more nervous when they go out there and compete. I’m thinking, ‘Why can’t you run faster?!’ When I was out there, I knew exactly what to do, where to pick up and everything else, so it leaves me wondering why they can’t do the same,” Christie said, with a wry smile.
“They say the best thing is doing it yourself, and the second best thing is teaching others.”
No longer concerned with his own fight for accolades and unpaid praise, the three-time European champion is happy to take a back seat, and places the successes of his athletes alongside all the medals he won during his career on the track.
“I’m working with athletes all the time, where I’m needed, trying to help them. If they achieve even five per cent of what they set out to do, that would bring me fulfilment,” Christie said.
“My time now is done and dusted. Too many people live in the past and enjoy their own hype. It’s no longer about me; it’s about my athletes. Every coach wants to coach an Olympic champion. I just want to coach as many as possible.”
Linford Christie was talking to Clare Balding. Watch the interview on The Clare Balding Show, on BT Sport at 9pm Saturday December 21.