By Andrew Halloway

Strength to carry on

Christine Ohuruogu reveals what inspired her fight to clear her name

Christine Ohuruogu

A shocking drug ban turned Britain's world champion runner Christine Ohuruogu's world upside down but a miraculous comeback has brought more blessing than she could have ever hoped for.

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Christine with her 2013 British Sportswoman of the Year Award

In August, at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, Christine was part of the England team that took bronze in the 4x400m women's relay, following silver in the 4x200m at the 2014 IAAF World Relays in the Bahamas.

But despite also acquiring gold and silver Olympic medals in 2008 and 2012, her career has not been easy – dogged by both accusations of doping and a long period of injuries from 2009 to 2011.

In a BBC TV interview, Christine opened up about the trauma of her ban from athletics and how she found the strength to bounce back.

It happened after she was selected for the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, given no chance against the world and Olympic champion Tonique Williams Darling.

While the odds were not in her favour, Christine clinched gold by a clear margin and a glorious career beckoned.

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400m silver medalist Christine poses with Sanya Richards-Ross and DeeDee Trotter, both of USA, at the London 2012 Olympic Games

Her dreams, however, came crashing down on the eve of the 2006 European Championships when she was banned for one year and from the Olympic Games for life.

She says she had never used drugs but accidentally missed three competition drug tests in a row, causing suspicion.

“There was nothing I could do about it but pray”

With her career on a knife-edge, Christine knew it would be a severe test of her faith in God to carry her through.

This faith had developed as she grew up in a churchgoing family and watched "what faith meant" to one of her good friends.

Seeing the genuine Christian life that this friend had in following Jesus and living life for Him, Christine became convinced that this was also what she wanted for her own life.

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MARCH 3, 2013: Women’s 4x400m Relay Gold medalists Eilidh Child, Shana Cox, Christine Ohuruogu and Perri Shakes-Drayton of Great Britain and Northern Ireland celebrate at the European Indoor Athletics in Gothenburg, Sweden.
(Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

"I felt [faith in God] was something that I really wanted to 'work at'," Christine says.

It was that spiritual strength that Christine drew on when facing injuries and when banned from athletics for the drug scandal.

Her faith was stretched to its limits when the media and other athletes also started calling her a cheat and she could not bear to train any longer.

Even though she was innocent, the public perception of her had dramatically changed.

"I knew this was going to follow me for the rest of my life, due to my own stupidity in missing the tests. And it didn't just affect me, but my whole family, friends and coach," Christine explains.

But her church congregation rallied around her and Christine says she was never angry with God about it.

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AUGUST 13, 2013: Christine Ohuruogu poses with sister and fellow British athlete Vicky Ohuruogu following Christine’s gold medal in the Women’s 400 metres at the Moscow World Athletics Championships (see also main photo)

"It was a great opportunity to respond to the situation and be a better person," she says.

"My mum said all this is some kind of test, and you may feel you've been stretched to your limit, but ultimately you will go higher than you have been before."

Just as her mum said, Christine returned to athletics after her ban and ended up taking Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008.

When asked what gave her the strength to turn things around, Christine answered: "I don't believe that God wants us to be down and out, so that's what encouraged me to go out and train again."

So despite a year in the sporting wilderness, she was ready to return, and within months had won the 2007 World Championships.

But she was out of the Olympics unless Britain's Olympic ban could be overturned, and some of the press still hinted that her win was probably drug-fuelled, though there was no evidence whatsoever.

Christine says: "There was nothing I could do about it but pray. It was out of my hands."

And the answer began when sports arbitration lawyer Michael Beloff QC took up her case, believing she was innocent, and helped to get her Olympic ban lifted in November 2007.

However, elation from her win in 2008 was soon clouded with a devastating disqualification during the 2011 world championships after a false start.

A period of recurrent injuries from 2009 to 2011 also threatened her career but she came through to clinch silver in the London Olympics.

World gold followed last year in Moscow, making her the first British woman to win two world championships, and her reputation was finally restored by being appointed Britain's team captain.

Wherever she goes in the world to compete, she doesn't forget who she owes it all to.

Just as God has blessed her, Christine wants to give back to others. She goes around to schools, unpaid, giving talks to encourage pupils to go into sport. In January 2014, it was reported that Christine has been quietly funding young athletes' training and travel expenses.

Following the Commonwealth Games, Christine's sights are on her third Olympics in Rio in 2016.

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