By Mike Rowbottom


As the latest group of hardy public figures start their first week in the jungle as part of ITV’s  I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, the antics of Jordan – sorry, Katie Price – or is she Jordan again now? – and Co bring back vivid memories to Diane Modahl.

Not good ones, actually.



Five years ago –the last time Katie Price, aka Jordan, aka Katie Price was on the show – the former Commonwealth 800 metres champion was alongside her, experiencing life among the creepy-crawlies.

"Eughh," she says as she recalls those halcyon days under camera. "It still makes me shudder even now. Before the filming started we were all put up in a five-star hotel, no expenses spared, but once we were on set we really were in the jungle. We were sleeping right next to a running river, which was loud. The conditions were dirty and uncomfortable. There were rats, and snakes, and the biggest spiders I have ever seen. 

"When they were doing the pre-show interview, without saying who was going to be involved, they asked me what I would think if Jordan was among the Celebrities. I said we'd probably got more in common than people would think. We are both mothers. We have both achieved at the top end of our chosen professions.

"At that time I only knew the Jordan of the topless pictures. Having met and spent time with her I would say she was an individual who was as focussed on what she wanted to achieve as any Olympic athlete.

"She is the most incredibly successful businesswoman. She's very ambitious. She doesn't let anything stand in her way – an incredibly strong, driven person.

"Having said that, I'm surprised that she would go into I'm A Celebrity again. The only reason I imagine she would have is she's getting a great fee out of it. There's nothing wrong with that – single mums and all that – but I'm surprised she doesn’t think: 'Been there, done that.' I guess she's trying to re-brand her image again.

"All of us that were in the jungle with Katie and Peter Andre were very cynical when they got together. We thought:  'This has got to be a publicity stunt.' I was incredibly cynical. But then when I was invited to their wedding and saw them celebrating with their families, I thought 'Good on them.'

"Peter is very unlike Katie. He's very gentle and straightforward. It's really sad that they have split up in the way they have, although some might say it was inevitable. I'm on neither side of the Katie and Peter thing – I'm on the side of the kids."

While Diane is not in regular contact with Jordan, or the 2004 winner Kerry Katona, she is in touch with Andre and others in that batch such as Mike Reid and Jenny Bond.

But while the memories of I'm A Celebrity may be largely uncomfortable, they pale into nothing compared with the experiences Modahl endured during and after her long, bitter, public battle with the domestic and international athletics following her adverse doping finding in 1994.

When Modahl  had to fly home in disgrace from the Commonwealth Games in Victoria – on the very day she was to have defended her 800m title - her wretchedness was all over the front pages.

In December of that year the British Athletics Federation (BAF) confirmed a four-year ban after her sample from a meeting in Portugal indicated testosterone levels at 42 times the legal limit, and in the months that followed she was, in the words of her husband Vicente, "close to suicide."

The following year, however, she won an appeal with BAF, and in 1996 she was cleared of all charges by the international authorities and allowed to return to competition. The International Amateur Athletic Association (IAAF), as it was then, recognised that crucial mistakes had been made in the handling of her sample, which had been left, unrefrigerated, on a shelf in a Portuguese laboratory.

Modahl was able to return with honour to the athletic environment, winning a Commonwealth bronze at 800m to complete her set in 1998, and competing at the Sydney Olympics two years later. But these achievements were earned against a background of domestic struggle. The Modahls, whose first daughter, Imani, was born in October 1995, had to sell their house six months later to help clear the debts they had incurred on legal and medical costs in clearing her name.

The couple then launched a High Court compensation claim for some £800,000 against the ailing BAF, but they were unsuccessful, and have only recently got themselves back into solvency – they now run a fashion clothing business - and a house of their own.

"We sold our home to keep the case going," Modahl says."Then we had to sell the second home we had downsized to. We had to go back and live with my parents. It was financially catastrophic."

No less catastrophic was the effect the whole experience had upon a woman who had begun her athletics career as an 11-year-old in the challenging locale of Manchester’s Longsight area, from which she went to school in Moss Side, and who had run at Olympic, world, European and Commonwealth level.

"After what happened to me in 1994 I detested everything that the sport stood for," she insists. "I felt as if my sport had betrayed me...that’s not sport had betrayed me. I had given my life to sport, and suddenly I felt really uncomfortable with it, out of place, even paranoid at times. At a time when I needed support, I was emotionally stripped.

"I couldn’t feel excited about sport any more. Obviously I watched things like Kelly Holmes winning her 800 and 1500 double at the 2004 Olympics – we were team mates for many years, and it was a fantastic achievement. And it was great to see Jenny Meadows getting an 800m bronze at this year's World Championships.

"But if I'm being truthful I still find it difficult to get excited about sport, particularly track and field."

Happily, however, there is an area of sporting endeavour which Modahl has discovered in the last couple of years which has restored some of that old joie de vivre – and it’s called StreetGames.

Started in 2007, StreetGames is a charity which delivers sporting activities to young people in disadvantaged areas ranging from athletics, cricket and handball to cheerleading and street dance. Recently StreetGames promoted a national girls tournament in futsal – the free-ranging five-a-side football game – in which the finals were played at Manchester United’s Carrington training ground.

Having been invited by the StreetGames chief executive and guiding force Jane Ashworth to address their annual conference on the power of grass roots coaching, Modahl was swiftly signed up as an ambassador for the charity and has been instrumental in gaining support from a sporting cast list that includes Amir Khan, Ricky Hatton, Bryan Robson, Jenny Meadows and Beth Tweddle.

"My involvement with StreetGames has made a big difference to me," Modahl says. "I fell out of love with sport, but this organisation has helped me re-learn my commitment. What I liked immediately about StreetGames was Jane herself – she is a very straightforward, clever, forward-thinking person.

"When she asked me if I would be prepared to help increase participation in sport by young people in areas of deprivation, I could'’t say no. By giving me that opportunity, she has enabled me to get back on track, if I can use that phrase.

"I was brought up in an area which was, and probably still is described as disadvantaged. But I have never forgotten the effect a grass-roots coach had on my life. When I addressed the first StreetGames conference I talked about Alan Robertshawe, who saw me running at my school in Moss Side, Ducie High, and asked me if I wanted to join a running club.

"I thought – 'What the heck is a running club?' But I said yes. And so, for years after that, he would drive me to train at Sale Harriers. It was in Cheshire, which felt like Monte Carlo to me. And he made that journey twice a week, up until I was 17. I have never forgotten what he did for me, and I related that experience in my speech."

Next month, StreetGames anticipate involvement with their one millionth youngster since the charity, which is now receiving £1 million in Government funding over the next three years, was established.

And on February 2, Modahl – who now has two younger daughters in Giselle, aged three, and Giorgia, aged one – will attend the organisation's third birthday party on the terrace at the House of Commons, where there will be an official recognition of the Inspire mark it has recently received for its work from the London 2012 Organising Committee.

"Seb Coe told the International Olympic Committee that we would change the sporting landscape for young people if we got the 2012 Games,"  Modahl says. "And organisations like StreetGames are helping to deliver that legacy."


Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]


Mike Rowbottom, one of Britain's most talented sportswriters, has covered the last five Summer and four Winter Olympics for The Independent. Previously he has worked for the Daily Mail, The Times, The Observer, the Sunday Correspondent and The Guardian. He is now chief feature writer for insidethegames.