Linford Christie - Biography - Later Years and Relationship With The Press

Later Years and Relationship With The Press

In 1998, less than six months before his first positive drug test Christie won a libel action against the journalist John McVicar. McVicar had insinuated in a satirical magazine that Christie's remarkable rise from 156th in the world to triumph at an age when he should have been in decline could only have been achieved through performance-enhancing drugs.

The jury found in Christie's favour by a 10–2 majority. The judge ordered that McVicar should be bound by an injunction restraining him from accusing Christie of taking banned substances. The modest £40,000 damages awarded were outweighed by the cost Christie incurred to bring the case.

After the judgment, McVicar called Christie "The Judy Garland of the 100 metres", referring to the emotion that Christie had given before the court.

During this case, Christie raised another of his grievances with the media – comments about the figure-hugging running suits that Christie wore in his races. The term Linford's lunchbox had been coined by The Sun newspaper in reference to the bulge of Christie's genitalia in his Lycra shorts.

"Linford's lunchbox is one of my grievances with the media. I don't like it … Nobody ever goes on about Sally Gunnell's breasts … I think it is disgusting, I don't like it at all." In court, the judge Mr Justice Popplewell, caused hilarity by asking Christie to explain the phrase, asking "What is Linford's lunchbox?" The reference became a part of pop culture, as evidenced in a joke by Nick Hancock: "There's nothing new you can say about Linford Christie, except he's slow and has got a small penis".

Christie's anger at this unwanted attention led to his infamous "newspaper print" running suit, although he has deliberately drawn attention to his body on occasions: he has remarked that "A lot of people have looked at my physique and two things can come into their mind – admiration and envy." and appeared shirtless and flexing his muscles on the BBC youth series Reportage in 1988.

In recent years, however, Christie appears to have come to terms with the 'lunchbox' label, disclosing his preference for briefs rather than boxer shorts, and in 2002 becoming the "face" of Sloggi, the men's underwear brand, posing for advertising wearing only underwear.

In 1993 Christie formed a sports management and promotions company, Nuff Respect, with sprint-hurdler Colin Jackson. One of their early products was a sports training and workout video, The S Plan: Get Fit with Christie and Jackson. Jackson was later to leave the enterprise, saying "Linford has to be in control, he has to be number one, he has to be the leader." Since his positive drug test Christie – who had worked as a presenter on the BBC children's programme Record Breakers and also had a contract with BBC Sport – has spent less time as a public figure and has devoted most of his time to managing his company.

Reflecting upon his track career, he stated: "I will have no complaints if people remember me as one of the best athletes in the world." Away from the track, Christie, a keen amateur gardener, he also co-hosted the BBC series Garden Invaders.

In 1993 the West London Stadium was renamed the Linford Christie Stadium in his honour. Christie's famous claim that he started races on the "B of the Bang" inspired a large public sculpture of the same name. Erected as a celebration of the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, it was officially unveiled by Christie in 2004. Owing to safety concerns, it was dismantled in 2009.

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