Diane Modahl

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Diane Modahl
Diane Modahl launches 2009 Two Cities Boat Race cropped.jpg
Medal record
Women's athletics
Representing  England
Commonwealth Games
Gold medal – first place 1990 Auckland 800 m
Silver medal – second place 1986 Edinburgh 800 m
Bronze medal – third place 1998 Kuala Lumpur 800 m

Diane Modahl (née Edwards, born 17 June 1966) is an English former middle distance runner who specialised in the 800 metres. She won the 800 m title at the 1990 Commonwealth Games. Her other notable results at 800 m include finishing second at the 1986 Commonwealth Games, third at the 1989 IAAF Grand Prix Final, fourth at the 1993 World Championships, and winning the European Cup in 1994. She also won six AAAs National 800 m titles and represented Great Britain at four Olympic Games (1988–2000), reaching the 800 m final in 1988.

In 1994, after a competition in Lisbon, her urine sample mimicked a positive reading for the performance-enhancing drug testosterone. Falsely accused of a doping offence, she professed her innocence and was later fully exonerated following an appeal.[1] She returned to competition in 1996, and won a bronze medal at the 1998 Commonwealth Games. Her career best 800 m time of 1:58.65 in 1990, ranks her seventh on the UK all-time list.


Born Diane Edwards in Manchester, to Jamaican parents, she won the 1984 English Schools 800 metres title in 2:05.7. She emerged as one of Britain's top 800m runners as a 20-year-old in 1986, winning the AAA Championships title ahead of Lorraine Baker. She went on to win a silver medal at the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in 2:01.12, finishing second to Kirsty Wade. A month later at the 1986 European Championships, she reached the semi-finals of the 800m, where she was eliminated in 2:00.84.

In 1987, Edwards won the UK Championship 800m title and retained her AAAs 800m title to earn selection for the 1987 World Championships, where she reached the semifinals and ran a personal best of 1:59.34. In 1988, she earned selection for the Seoul Olympic Games, where she ran 1:59.66 in the semifinals, qualifying for the final. In the final, she finished eighth in 2:00.77. She had one of the best seasons of her career in 1989, including running 2:00.83 to finish third in the 800m at the IAAF Grand Prix Final in Monaco, behind Ana Quirot and Christine Wachtel. She was ranked number seven on the 1989 Track & Field News world merit rankings at 800m.

In January 1990, Edwards won the gold medal in the 800m at the Commonwealth Games, winning in 2:00.25. On the 14th July 1990 she broke the English record in the 800m with 1:58.65 in Oslo, a time that would remain the best of her career. The previous record was 1:58.98 by Shireen Bailey in 1987, the UK record being held by the Scottish born Welsh athlete Kirsty Wade (1:57.42). In August, Edwards reached the final at the 1990 European Championships, finishing eighth. After struggling with injury, she won her third AAAs 800m title in 1992, to earn selection for the Barcelona Olympics, where she reached the semifinals.

In 1993, now competing as Diane Modahl, she had perhaps the best season of her career, consistently running below two minutes for 800m. Her seasons best was 1:59.00. At the 1993 World Championships, she ran 1:59.12 in the semifinals to qualify for the final. In the final, won by Maria Mutola, she finished fourth in 1:59.42. Modahl was ranked in the top ten of the Track & Field News 800m world merit rankings for the second time in 1993, again at number seven. In 1994, she won her fifth AAAs 800m title and won the 800m at the European Cup in Gateshead, edging out Patricia Djate of France. However at that years European Championships in Helsinki, she was eliminated in the semifinals, running 2:02.18.

Fight against positive drug test[edit]

Following her positive drug test, Modahl was sent home from the Victoria Commonwealth Games in Canada by the British Athletics Federation. She was subsequently banned from competition. She engaged lawyers to make the case that the laboratory in Lisbon which tested her sample had major flaws in their processing. They argued that the laboratory had stored her urine sample on a table in the stadium in a room heated at 35 °C for three days, causing serious bacterial degradation. The urine sample had had a pH of 5 at the time the sample had been given but this had changed to 8.85 by the time the sample was tested for banned substances.[2] According to IOC rules at the time, no samples with a pH greater than 7.5 should have been tested as the sample is no longer considered safe. In addition the metabolites had almost disappeared from the readings, whereas if Modahl had administered drugs it would have increased dramatically. The chain of custody was non-existent and the IOC laboratory in Lisbon tried to backdate documents after the event.[citation needed] Modahl said, "I have declared my innocence, I have never taken any banned substance".[3]

In July 1995 Professor Simon Gaskell at UMIST in Manchester completed a six-month study on bacterial degradation in urine samples. The study looked at three athletes: Modahl, a tennis player and a jogger. All gave a urine sample when the pH level was 5, and half the sample was frozen, while the other half was stored for three days at the same temperature as the room in Lisbon where Modahl´s original sample was stored (as part of the study the weather details were collected from the meteorological institute in Lisbon to recreate the conditions). The urine samples stored in elevated temperatures all measured pH 9 and all three samples showed a false positive reading for testosterone versus epi-testosterone. This evidence supported Modahl's claim of innocence and she won the appeal.

The British Athletics Federation lifted Modahl's ban on 25 July 1995 when they lost the appeal hearing in London. On 25 March 1996 the IAAF congress in South Africa also accepted the evidence and cleared Modahl of the charges. The IAAF general secretary István Gyulai said, "We can no longer trust that the laboratories get it right; we have to test the testers more often."

Modahl and her husband Vicente wrote a book about their experiences, The Diane Modahl Story - Going the Distance, published in 1995. A second updated edition was released in 1996 after Modahl won her case.

Modahl subsequently spent six years pursuing the British Athletics Federation for £450,000 in damages.[4] The High Court ruled against her in 2000, on the basis that no contract existed between her and the BAF.[5] Ultimately, the cost financially ruined Modahl[citation needed] and contributed to the financial collapse of the BAF in 1998, which was replaced by UK Athletics.

The case was heard in the High Court, Court of Appeal and the House of Lords in London, and the panels included prominent judges such as Lord Irvine and Lord Woolf. All three courts stated in their summaries that Modahl "had never used any drugs and should be seen as being innocent of all charges for all future".[citation needed] The court process involved six hearings from 1996 to December 2000.

Modahl returned to competition in 1996 and finished second behind Kelly Holmes in the 800 metres at the British Olympic trials in June, running 1:59.87. At the Atlanta Olympic Games in August, she pulled a hamstring in her heat, 50m from the finish. In 1998, she won her sixth AAAs 800m title, before going on to win the 800m bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in the world class time of 1:58.81. She competed at her fourth Olympic Games in Sydney 2000, where she was eliminated in the heats running 2:02.41. She retired in 2002.

Career after athletics[edit]

To mark the 17th Commonwealth Games taking place in Manchester in 2002, the Greater Manchester Universities (Manchester Metropolitan University, University of Manchester, Salford University and UMIST) conferred joint honorary degrees of Doctor of Letters on Modahl, Roger Bannister, Clive Lloyd CBE, the Rt Hon Donald McKinnon and Dr Mamphela Ramphele for their great contributions to the Commonwealth.[citation needed]

Modahl is a non-executive board member at NHS Manchester,[citation needed] and was the chief ambassador for StreetGames, a charity for inner-city children between 2008 and 2013. She is also the CEO of the Diane Modahl Sports Foundation, a registered charity founded by her in 2010. DMSF brings athletics coaching opportunities to young people, particularly those living in disadvantaged areas.[citation needed]

She took part in the third series of I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! in 2004.

Personal life[edit]

She is married to Norwegian, Vicente Modahl, an international athletics coach and players' agent licensed by the Football Association of England, as well as a UEFA/FIFA match agent;[citation needed] they have three children. Modahl described her husband as "the rock in my life" during the turbulent years, and credited him with spearheading her appeal, saying, "Vicente went head on, too stubborn, driven and angry to give in to anyone. Without him I would never have been cleared of the injustice done to me."[citation needed] She is also a cousin of Chris Eubank.


  • 6 Times AAA's National 800 metres Champion (1986,87,89,92,94,98)
  • 2 Times UK National Champion (800 m 1987, 400 m 1990)
Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
Representing  England
1986 Commonwealth Games Edinburgh, United Kingdom 2nd 800 m 2:01.12
1990 Commonwealth Games Auckland, New Zealand 1st 800 m 2:00.25
1998 Commonwealth Games Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 3rd 800 m 1:58.81
Representing  Great Britain
1986 European Championships Stuttgart, Germany 11th (sf) 800 m 2:00.84
1987 World Championships Rome, Italy semi-finals 800 m 1:59.34
1988 Olympic Games Seoul, South Korea 8th 800 m 2:00.77
1989 Grand Prix Final Fontvieille, Monaco 3rd 800 m 2:00.83
1990 European Indoor Championships Glasgow, United Kingdom 7th 1500 m 4:21.27
European Championships Split, Yugoslavia 8th 800 m 2:02.62
1992 Olympic Games Barcelona, Spain 15th (sf) 800 m 2:04.32
1993 World Championships Stuttgart, Germany 4th 800 m 1:59.42
1994 European Cup Birmingham, United Kingdom 1st 800 m 2:02.81
Goodwill Games Saint Petersburg, Russia 4th 800 m 1:59.85
European Championships Helsinki, Finland 14th (sf) 800 m 2:02.18
1996 Olympic Games Atlanta, United States heats 800 m DNF
1998 European Championships Budapest, Hungary 9th (sf) 800 m 2:00.08
1999 World Championships Seville, Spain 17th (h) 800 m 2:00.83
2000 Olympic Games Sydney, Australia 21st (h) 800 m 2:02.41


  1. ^ Rowbottom, Mike (1995-07-27). Diane Modahl wins her appeal against drugs ban. The Independent. Retrieved on 2013-12-07.
  2. ^ Rowbottom, Mike (1994-09-01). Athletics: Modahl and British officials question test: Banned runner says 'material changes' appeared in sample following initial drug test and requests hearing within 30 days. The Independent. Retrieved on 2013-12-07.
  3. ^ BBC story on Modahl ban being lifted. BBC News. Retrieved on 2013-12-07.
  4. ^ "BBC SPORT | ATHLETICS | Modahl loses battle for damages". BBC News. 14 December 2000. Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  5. ^ Knight, Tom (14 December 2000). "Athletics: Modahl case raises issue of contracts". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 18 March 2012.