Inside Lines: Christie comes in from the cold after Olympic ban is scrapped


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The Independent Online

The sprinter Dwain Chambers and cyclist David Millar are not the biggest names to benefit from last week's ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport that the British Olympic Association's lifetime exclusion from the Games is unenforceable.

Linford Christie, who has been subject to the same ban as a coach since failing a drugs test in his athletic dotage 13 years ago, is now eligible to return to assist both his own athletes and Team GB in the Olympic arena this summer. UK Athletics can now apply to accredit him to their coaching team, and there will be pressure from many athletes for them to do so.

For while the return of the 1992 Barcelona 100 metres gold medallist may not be welcomed by the BOA – or Lord Coe, with whom Christie has had a long-running feud – it will be by those who believe Britain's most-medalled athlete has become among the best coaches, despite previously being kept outside the Olympic circles.

Christie, 52, has always disputed the finding of the performance drug nandrolone after a meet in Germany in 1999. He was given a two-year ban despite UK Athletics feeling there was "doubt whether the drug had been taken deliberately". He was also subject to the now abandoned BOA lifetime ban from Olympic participation both as an athlete and a coach.

Christie now coaches 10 talented young athletes alongside the Olympic sprint relay gold medalist Mark Lewis-Francis, who is a rival to Chambers for a 2012 berth, at the Linford Christie Stadium in west London. He also runs his own sports management company Nuff Respect.

Wrestling heads for a fall

British Wrestling's import of Plastic Brits from eastern Europe will be called into question at a meeting with the British Olympic Association this week.

This follows one of the "GB" medal hopes, 29-year-old Ukrainian-born Miroslav Dykun, initially failing a dope test, which has embarrassed both the BOA, who must endorse Olympic selection and UK Sport, who have funded the so-called "mercenaries".

The sports minister, Hugh Robertson, has also expressed his concern at the furore over the male and female Bulgarian and Ukrainian wrestlers brought here by the governing body who have married British counterparts, enabling them to apply for UK citizenship. The BOA will seek a long-overdue explanation from British Wrestling's chief executive, Colin Nicholson, about a questionable policy which has led to controversy.

With the home secretary, Teresa May, believed to be set to deny at least two of the passport applications it may be that British Wrestling will have to rely mainly on home-grown talent if they are to have a team at 2012. And why not?

Minister's labour of love

Boris Johnson is still in the London mayoral seat and in his victory speech the first thing he mentioned was the importance of the London Olympics. As we were saying here last week, at least hopefully he will bring a touch of levity to an event that seems in danger of being suffocated by security overkill and a win-at-all costs mentality among some of those preparing British competitors.

Robertson informs us that following our report of the ex-Labour sports minister Richard Caborn, who helped London get the Games, being without a formal role he has arranged for both him and his predecessor Gerry Sutcliffe to help look after the huge number of sports ministers here from overseas during the Games. Both the sports minister and Lord Coe say the currently ticketless Ken Livingstone's contribution to the Games will be "suitably recognised" despite his defeat.

"We have genuinely tried to deliver these Games on a cross-party basis," says Robertson. So presumably Tory Boris will ensure that another former Labour sports minister, Kate Hoey, whom he is expected to re-engage as his sports guru, also gets a seat at the show.