Athletics: Livingston returning to top level

Jason Livingston, whose four-year ban for drug abuse ended last July, took some rapid steps towards rehabilitating his competitive career this weekend at Birmingham's New Year Games.

The 25-year-old former European indoor champion recorded a time of 6.66sec in defeating a 60 metres field which included the world 110m hurdles record holder, Colin Jackson. That kind of performance so early in the season gives Livingston, who won indoor European gold in 1992, reason to be confident that he can make the team for the world indoor championships in Paris at the beginning of March.

His narrow win over Jackson, who was himself European indoor 60m champion in 1994, was greeted with virtual silence by the two hundred or so spectators at the national indoor arena. Clearly, Livingston has work to do off the track as well as on it. But with Linford Christie's career coming to an end, the man who was seen four years ago as his successor has the opportunity to re-establish himself.

"These are exciting times in the sport, with IAAF money and National Lottery cash about to come through," said Livingston, who maintains that he was innocent of the charges laid against him five years ago. "I hope to produce the goods and get a share of it. Athletics was my whole life in 1992. Now I have two kids and my family comes first.

"But I'm not setting any specific targets. It will be hard making the team. I'm just glad to be racing again. I've watched enough athletics on the box."

During his time in the wilderness, Livingston, who was sent home from the 1992 Olympics after it was announced he had tested positive for the banned steroid methandianone, has tried his luck at rugby league, American Football and football before taking up his present job as a debt collector. "I've had so many dark times," he said. "Soul searching and depression which almost saw me go off my head... but I believe I can run faster than ever." Livingston's 60m best of 6.51sec was a European record - run in 1992, the year when he won his European 60m title.

"Jason has served his time and that's it," Malcolm Arnold, Britain's chief coach, said. "Anyone away from the sport for a long time loses some of their edge, but Jason does not appear to have lost too much." Jackson said: "He probably needs to find another two metres. He has paid the penalty, but unfortunately everyone will remember him for that rather than for his performances on the track."

Jackson, who is still world record holder for the 110m hurdles despite seeing Allen Johnson, of the United States, take the world and Olympic titles in the last two years, is also on a mission to recapture his best form. Free of the knee injury which hampered him last season, he had returned from training with Christie in Australia and looked in good shape as he finished second in 6.72.

Doug Turner ran a Welsh indoor record of 20.83sec and the 400m specialist Mark Hylton clocked a personal best 21.04 when winning 200m races on the second day of the Games.

Paula Radcliffe, recently recovered from a knee injury, took fifth place at Saturday's Coca-cola international cross-country in Belfast behind the winner, Elana Fidatov of Romania.

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