'Everything I had worked hard for had just gone down the drain. I've never cried so much.' Linford Christie and the positive drugs test

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It was the day of the 100-metre heats, we had to get up at an unbelievable hour because the event was at about 10am. You have to be up and about, alert, have breakfast and get yourself ready. It's so hard to eat breakfast on the day you compete; nervous energy just kills you. I felt completely knackered and I was knocking back the black coffees to keep me awake - a crazy thing to do because you can be found positive in drugs tests on too much coffee. It was naivety on my part because I thought I had nothing to fear; I had made a big issue over the fact that I was not on drugs.

That does not alter the fact that I should not have been drinking black coffee on the morning of the 100-metre heats in Seoul. There were makeshift shops in Nihon and I had bought some ginseng. I had started taking that because it is supposed to give you a feeling of well-being.

Ben Johnson was not one of the favourites because he had recently been beaten by Carl Lewis and Calvin Smith. Ben also had an injury and, if that prevailed, he wouldn't win anything. I was down to finish fourth or fifth.

I ran really well through the rounds. Carl did his normal thing by trying to dominate from gun to tape; he always has to end up with the fastest times of the day. In the final I was drawn in the middle lanes with Ben and Carl - and Ben just went. I don't think I'll ever forget that; he just went. We had been preparing with Ben in mind because he was a 60- metre man. He would go hard for 60 metres, and then just hang on. So we had decided to train for the last 40 metres. The plan was to work hard for 60, stay as close as possible to Ben, and, while he was dying, I would go past. It didn't happen.

Stride for stride, I was with Carl for about 60 or 70 metres. But Ben was already out of the picture; he had gone. Instead of dying, he picked up. I don't know what happened, to be honest. I don't know if it was 10 or 15 metres out, but he looked left and right - and just put his finger up.

Carl just couldn't believe how far in front Ben was. Ben ran 9.79 seconds. I ran the race of my life in 9.97 seconds to cross the line in third place. I was the first European to get below 10 seconds. The first thing I knew about what was to befall Ben was when I was woken up in the middle of the night to be told that Ben had tested positive. I cried that day because I have always felt that people who get caught for drugs should be banned for life. But Ben was so cool; he was really funny. On the day he won the gold, we were on the rostrum and he was admiring the girls carrying the medals. Ben had a stutter and he was saying: "You s-s-s-see that girl over there. T-t-t-tell her, Ben Johnson wants her." He was a laugh. I cried because I was just sorry for Ben.

I recovered, took what little of the ginseng remained, and ran the 200 metres. I finished fourth in the final and set a new British record. Despite the furore over Ben Johnson and the problems with the press, we had a good time in Seoul. We shopped and shopped. You could buy made-to-measure clothes for next to nothing. I came away with a cashmere double-breasted blazer, a suit and a coat that I've still got - a long one with a big split in the back. At the Olympic camp I remember, too, the various supplies - Puma, ASICS and so on - bad kit on display. Bit by bit, the items would mysteriously disappear. By the time we were due to leave, the athletes had even gone as far as stripping the dummies of their clothes.

It was all part of the fun. I remember after the 200 metres a group of us were relaxing in the village. Our team manager, Mike Turner, was a university don who caused a lot of jokes among the athletes because he would wear a GB tracksuit with brown socks and shoes. But I didn't find anything funny about what he had to say when he pulled me to one side.

He told me he had received a letter from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), informing him that I had been tested positive. I looked in his face and I could see that he was really serious. I just broke down. I went into a room at the athletes' apartment block with members of the British team management. They started a serious cross-examination. I suppose they thought they had to but I knew I hadn't done anything. They made me begin to believe that I had. To this day, I don't know if I've forgiven them. They came into my room and took away all of my vitamins. I had to tell them everything - what I had eaten for breakfast, and so on.

Everything I had worked hard for had just gone down the drain. I just wanted to die. I wanted to kill myself. I've never cried so much. I felt those people took away a lot of my humanity, they took away a lot of my self-respect; everything I had.

Malcolm Read, the British athletics medical representative, discovered that the substance concerned was pseudoephedrine; the kind of stuff you find in cough mixture. I had spent 24 hours believing they had found steroids before discovering that they were talking about pseudoephedrine.

During that time I wasn't able to sleep. It was as if my life was at stake. When I went to see Robert Watson, the Queen's Counsel appointed by the British Olympic Committee (BOC) to defend my case with the IOC, he started by saying that I would have to go to the inquiry the next day and explain my case to the committee. The QC suggested that I should say I had been taking cough mixture because I had a cold. They would probably accept that, give me a slap on the wrist and a three-month ban. I said, "No. There's no way I'm going to lie because I didn't do anything."

Watson said he was glad I had said that because now he believed that I hadn't taken drugs. "I was just testing you," he said. "If you had accepted my suggestion, then I wouldn't have represented you. I would have thought you were guilty. But now I believe you haven't knowingly taken anything."

By now, the news had broken in Britain. Linford Christie had been found positive. My name should never have been released. The hearing was still to come that evening. Having watched the chaotic scenes on television as Ben Johnson and his coach tried to leave Seoul airport, I thought I knew what was in store. But nothing could prepare me for the disgusting scene outside the hearing.

There must have been more press in the lobby of that hotel waiting for the hearing than when Camillagate broke. I was pushed and shoved, swept along by the throng with microphones and cameras shoved in my face. I said nothing. Nobody was supposed to know about this meeting apart from the team management and the IOC. So who was leaking information? It was a disgrace.

Watson presented an impressive case. He showed samples of ginseng, which we now believed to be the prime suspect. The committee asked me questions but there was nothing I could really say. I told them I had always believed in drug-free athletics, just as it said on my T-shirts.

They eventually accepted that I had not done anything wrong. In the press conference that followed, they said I had been given "the benefit of the doubt". The spokesman's English wasn't very good which is why, I think, he used a phrase like that. The press picked up on it, which meant my name wasn't cleared properly.

I discovered that there had been tremendous support at home. The welcome I received at Heathrow - people waving Union Jacks and cheering - was wonderful; just what I needed at the end of what had been a very long and trying five weeks.

Despite all that had happened, some people still believe I was on drugs, even though the amount of pseudoephedrine concerned wouldn't have stimulated a child. I would have needed bottles of the stuff to get any effect. I have put it down to experience and I can say to people, "Don't take drugs, it's not worth it." I only have to remember Seoul. I felt like a little kid who had taken a penny bubble-gum from a shop and ended up in the Old Bailey.

'To Be Honest With You: The Autobiography of Linford Christie' is published today by Michael Joseph, pounds 16.99.

Linford on respect

I find it sad that religion no longer seems to play such an important part in family life; certainly not as much as it did when I was a child in Jamaica. There seems to be a general decline in standards all round. I like to talk about respect. As a black child, one of the first things my parents taught me was respect. I learned to respect my elders; I learned to respect other people; I learned to respect another person's possessions.

I get knocked for that now. The British media say I am searching for respect and they have a problem with the fact that our company is called 'Nuff Respect'. Respect is a value, and it is no longer taught in Britain. As a black kid, I was told all about good manners. Britain is in the state it is now because those values don't seem to exist any more.

I don't always accept the saying that it's not the winning, it's the taking part that counts. Winning is pretty important but you can't be criticised if you fight, even if you don't win. As for me, I am just a normal guy who happens to be able to run a bit faster than everyone else.

Linford: a man in tights

Athletes used to wear little shorts known as "batty riders" because they would ride up your backside, or "batty". Allan Wells introduced the cut-down shorts in Britain in 1986 and I liked the idea. Apart from giving warmth and protection to the athlete's hamstrings, they were distinctive. It seemed to me that all runners looked the same. So I decided to take it a stage further by going for multi-coloured body suits. I'll never forget the first time I appeared dressed that way. The other guys said: "Yuk! How can you possibly wear those things?"

But the suits stood out. The crowd could recognise me. They no longer saw eight black guys who looked the same. Now they knew which one was Linford Christie. I became more and more outrageous. I would wear cut- outs - suits with big holes in the side - penguin suits, anything. From a practical point of view, the tights are much more comfortable than shorts. There is nothing flapping around and, as I said before, they keep my hamstrings in place. I wear my tights down to my knees to give the muscles extra support. There can be a lot of movement in the hamstring and sometimes it can twist and pull. Also, it pays to keep muscles as warm as possible.

The warmer the muscles, the more elasticity you get out of them and the better the performance. Muscles become stiff in the cold and that leads to injury. So tights are the answer.

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