Drugs and Sport 1: Christie fails test but says he's clean

LINFORD CHRISTIE, Britain's greatest athlete of recent times, is facing a two-year ban after failing a doping test.

UK Athletics confirmed yesterday that the 39-year-old former World and Olympic 100 metres champion had been suspended after a test taken at a minor meeting in Dortmund on 13 February showed traces of Nandrolone, a banned steroid.

Christie, who retired from top-class competition two years ago, angrily denied taking a banned drug. He said last night: "I have always been bitterly opposed to the use of banned substances and it is ridiculous to imagine that I would take them after my retirement. I am completely innocent of any wrongdoing and any case against me will be vigorously defended."

Last July, Christie won pounds 40,000 damages in a High Court libel action over a magazine article by John McVicar accusing him of taking performance- enhancing drugs. "My reputation is very, very important to me," he said.

That his reputation has now been called into question at a time when he is only running occasionally is a shattering blow not just for him, but for British athletics as a whole. Since its financial collapse in October 1997, the domestic sport has restored itself to health with large sponsorship deals involving CGU insurance and BBC Sport.

The urine test in Germany was carried out by the International Amateur Athletic Association, which will now require the former British team captain to face a disciplinary committee.

But there are serious doubts within the sport over the reliability of tests showing up metabolites of Nandrolone as Christie's did. Last Wednesday, Britain's European 200 metres champion, Doug Walker, was cleared of all charges after producing the same results as Christie. A third British athlete, the 400 metres hurdler Gary Cadogan, is also facing a hearing following an adverse test, and there has been a worldwide surge in similar findings. Nandrolone can appear naturally in the body.

Christie said he could not explain the traces of metabolites of Nandrolone in his body. "I agree that there should be a full investigation into the numerous cases where metabolites of Nandrolone have been found in urine samples, to establish how this could happen without the knowledge of the athlete," he said.

Jonathan Edwards, Britain's world triple jump record holder, said: "I think it is obvious the test is flawed. When Linford retired he still asked to be kept on the drug register. This just doesn't add up."