‘Everything I worked for is gone’: Irish sprinter Leon Reid on life after drug den shame
Leon Reid (28) was reaching the height of his career when he was arrested in May 2020
An Olympic sprinter who competed for Ireland over 200 metres at the Tokyo Olympics and won a bronze medal for Northern Ireland at the 2018 Commonwealth Games has opened up about his drug-related conviction.
Leon Reid (28) was reaching the height of his career when he was arrested in May 2020. He retired from sport two weeks ago and now works in telesales in Brighton.
“One day everything you worked for is just gone,” he said.
“Even your identity, it’s not an athlete anymore, it’s a criminal.”
Reid was arrested when a flat he was renting to his friend, Romaine Hyman, was raided.
Police discovered a gun, ammunition, a silencer, seven kilos of cocaine and the equipment to cook crack cocaine hidden in an old British Athletics training bag.
There was also £23,000 in cash found in a cabinet drawer.
Reid was handed a 21-month suspended prison sentence in February last year after he was found guilty of allowing his flat to be used in the production of crack cocaine.
“I wanted to shout it from the rooftops but I just felt like an idiot,” Reid told the Sunday Times.
He claims he was unaware his flat was being used to produce crack cocaine.
“At the end of the day, I did rent my flat to him. I should’ve been more observant, asked more questions, but I didn’t have a clue what was going on.
“I had spent my entire life trying to get away from that stuff.”
Reid’s parents were both drug addicts, and as a child he was placed into foster care due to his parents’ addiction. His mother, Anne-Marie, was from Belfast and died in 2016.
“They were smoking crack and heroin. I didn’t know what it was, but I saw the burnt spoons, the needles. I’d just wake up and walk to school.
“I didn’t know how to tell the time. Sometimes I’d get there at like 6am so then the social services got involved again.”
Reid was placed in 14 different foster homes by the time he was 15.
“It was just life. I was numb,” he said.
Reid said he tried his best to avoid making the mistakes his parents made.
“I had a lot of examples of not what to be. Becoming a drug dealer would have been the easiest thing. That’s what my life was set up to be.”
Reid admits he regrets trusting Romaine Hyman; however, he said at the time he had no reason not to trust him.
“I’d known Romaine for years,” he said. “He was a well-known sports guy in Bath. He said he was setting up a trading business and that he needed somewhere to work and have meetings.
“He was so blasé about it all and I had the Olympics coming up, I didn’t really think much about it.”
While the jury ruled Reid must have known about Hyman’s criminal activity, he insisted that Hyman deceived him and he had no idea of the crimes being committed in his property.
“It was always hidden. The apartment was very messy. You’d open a cupboard and clothes would fall out. I had something like 17 training bags in one room, and he took advantage of that.”
Reid claims he would not have put his career in jeopardy over the same amount of rent he was getting from Hyman.
“If you even touch a glass or some car keys that have cocaine on, you can test positive and get a two-year ban.
“That would risk my entire career, for £500 a month. I didn’t need the money.
“I’d got myself into a position where I could help people out, and I tried to do a good thing for someone, and then it’s like: ‘I might go to prison and lose everything’.
“After I got bailed, I came home and literally downed a bottle of red wine. I was just thinking ‘How is this happening to me?’ ”
Police found two other addresses in Bath where Hyman had stored vast amounts of MDMA and ketamine, along with another £24,000 in cash.
Hyman was found guilty of 18 offences and sentenced to 26 years in prison.
As for Reid, he carried out 220 hours of community service, knitting hats for the homeless and tending to an allotment.
Although he returned to sprinting, his form went downhill and he was barred from competing at the 2022 Commonwealth Games on security grounds. Without sponsors, Reid’s career culminated in a series of missed payments and debt.
“There were more doors closed than open,” he told the newspaper. “I just thought this isn’t really for me anymore.”
Reid hopes by sharing his story people will understand how hard he has tried to avoid the mistakes of his parents.
“I don’t know how people will see [my story],” he said. “I want them to know how easy it would’ve been for me to take drugs, to sell drugs, to get into trouble, but I went down another route.”
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