Athletics: Christie uses new role to make defence of Ohuruogu

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The Independent Online

Linford Christie offered a robust defence yesterday both of his new role as a mentor for UK Athletics and of Christine Ohuruogu, the British athlete facing a ban after missing three out-of-competition tests.

Christie also gave the new system of instant public grading for UK athletes no marks out of 10.

The former world and Olympic 100m champion, whose management company, Nuff Respect, signed Ohuruogu in May, insisted that the 22-year-old Commonwealth 400m champion had not deliberately evaded UK Sport testers.

"Christine's only guilt is that she's naïve," he said. "And what we are doing now is, we are not catching the guilty, we are penalising the innocent. Some athletes are not great at lifestyle management, unfortunately. That's not their job. Their job is to go out and perform."

Christie rebuffed the suggestion that his doping ban in 1999 following a positive test for nandrolone - he was cleared by UK Athletics but the decision was overturned by the international body - invalidated his new role.

"I'm not here to be worried about what other people think about a moral dilemma," he said. "I didn't do anything wrong, and as long as I go to bed at night and I can sleep, I don't worry about what people think.

"I'm here to do a job. UK Athletics and Norwich Union see fit for me to be here. It shows first of all that they believe I'm innocent, and it's about the fact that I can deliver."

Ohuruogu's third missed test happened just over a fortnight ago. She was driving to a training session at Mile End and heard that there was a school sports day taking place there. At the suggestion of her coach, Lloyd Cowan, the session was switched to Crystal Palace.

Having learned to drive a week earlier, it is understood that Ohuruogu was uncertain about her route to the stadium, which was a concern uppermost in her mind. She did not, however, inform the anti-doping authorities of the change.

Her second missed test is believed to have occurred when she was due to be working in the weights room at Northwick Park hospital, but her training session was switched to Mile End.

Ohuruogu lives at home in Stratford with her family of eight and although athletes are generally encouraged to offer availability for testing at their home, she had switched that availability to training venues because previous early morning tests had disturbed her younger siblings.

The risks of bringing Christie into the UK Athletics fold were evident when he was asked his opinion of the policy of issuing public judgements and marks out of 10 for athletes' performances.

"To be honest, most of the athletes won't really take much notice of it," he said.