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The Independent Online
CHRISTMAS 1992 was not a season of goodwill for the sprinter Jason Livingston. A British Athletic Federation hearing found him guilty of using steroids, his athletics career was officially derailed for four years, and yet he continues to protest h is innocence. If Diane Modahl is looking for sympathy, she should turn to the sprinter with the shaven head, the Ben Johnson looks and the bullet start.

Livingston spent that Christmas in the hope that an appeal would find him not guilty, but as Nick Bitel, his solicitor, says: "The problem with the first hearing is it confirms that you are a cheat. It puts a seal on it."

Livingston's career first began to crumble on 15 July when a drugs tester from the Sports Council arrived on his doorstep in Croydon. Over the previous six months his world ranking had improved from 132nd to fifth and he had crowned his rise by winning the European indoor 60m title. However, a fortnight later, he was smuggled out of the Olympic village in Barcelona as the news broke that he had tested positive for methandianone.

Over the next five months, a case was prepared to attempt to show the myriad natural ways that this steroid, an outdated anabolic, could have found its way into his bloodstream. Bitel, who has since represented Solomon Wariso, was employed to his defencealong with Sarah Moore, a barrister who had previously worked as junior counsel for the International Amateur Athletics Federation in its cases against Butch Reynolds and Katrin Krabbe. To escape the public eye, Livingston moved, with his gir lfriend and son, to Cardiff, where he was turned away by Cardiff Athletics Club and Cardiff City FC with whom he requested a trial (he had been on Arsenal's books as a boy), and by the hearing he had lost a stone in weight. "Jason was in a terrible emoti onal state when I first met him," recalls Bitel. "But by then, he was bewildered. He could not understand how this had all happened."

Livingston came up from Cardiff to attend the hearing, held at a hotel in Russell Square, in London, which started on 21 December. Nearly £10,000 had been spent on expert evidence to bolster his defence, but the emotional trauma he was to go through overthe following three days had not been accounted for. As Moore says: "Hearings are always very stressful." This was particularly the case here, says Bitel: "Modahl has been very fortunate to have her husband who is involved in the sport and who, it seems, has given her a great deal of support. But unfortunately, Jason was not in that position. Someone from the sport should have counselled him, but here is the problem. In football, a PFA representative would have helped him. But here the athlete is prosecuted and, in effect, counselled by the same governing body. It just doesn't work. And Jason didn't have people around him like Modahl and he suffered from this."

The decision of the BAF hearing was announced two days before Christmas. Livingston was absent, but a statement from Bitel repeated the athlete's assertion that he was innocent, and then, in another precursor of the Modahl case, complained about the authorities' failure to furnish the defence with the required information.

So Livingston spent Christmas Day considering his sentence and, after receiving a call of support from Linford Christie, announced that he would appeal against the decision. "Whatever happens, they are not going to break me as a man," he asserted. "I've said it before and I'll say it again - drugtakers are cheats and should be banned from any form of sport." Two years on, he works as a clerk in Cardiff; his appeal failed but he still stands by those words. There are 17 months of his ban left to run, andthen he intends to run again.