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.

Originally from Manchester, of Jamaican parents, she was the 800 m champion at the 1990 Commonwealth Games. She competed in all four Olympic Games from 1988 to 2000. She came fourth in the 800 m at the 1993 World Championships in Athletics in Stuttgart, won the European Cup 800 m in 1994, and came third at the 1989 IAAF Grand Prix Final behind Ana Quirot of Cuba. She was a finalist at the European Championships, World Championships and the Olympic Games. She won six AAAs National 800 metres titles.

Her career nearly ended in 1994 when 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]

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 35C 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 where 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 Istvan 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 at the 1996 Olympic Games but pulled a hamstring in the heat 50m from the finish. In 1998 she won the 800m bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in the world class time of 1:58.

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 semi-finals 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
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 semi-finals 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
European Championships Helsinki, Finland semi-finals 800 m 2:02.18
1996 Olympic Games Atlanta, United States heats 800 m DNF
1998 European Championships Budapest, Hungary semi-finals 800 m 2:00.08
1999 World Championships Seville, Spain heats 800 m 2:00.83
2000 Olympic Games Sydney, Australia heats 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.