Leon Reid claims that all he ever wanted was to get away from drugs. He was born to addict parents and grew up around heroin and crack cocaine.
Instead, the athlete experienced feelings of betrayal and betrayal from a friend, which led to a conviction for permitting crack cocaine to be produced in his home.
He represented Ireland at the Olympics after his athletics career came to an end.
The 28-year-old believes that he is a victim of trust-breach and naivete. And he hopes that by sharing his experience, others, especially in sport, would be able to avoid making the same errors.
“I put my trust in someone and an old training partner, an old friend,” Reid tells Sky News in his first TV interview on the case. “I feel like I’ve got really taken advantage of, especially when I was at the height of my career.”
Reid discovered stability and speed on the athletics track after hopping between 14 foster homes.
After a chaotic childhood, running helped him find a new direction in life with the support of foster parents and a coach. It gave him a career he never expected.
His first major competition, representing Northern Ireland, was in 2018. The 200-meter bronze medalist returned home from the Australian Commonwealth Games.
He altered his routine and was getting ready for the Olympics by 2020, which had been delayed by the virus.
Friend ‘used his flat’ to produce crack cocaine
He was unable to continue his training in South Africa after the initial lockdown. He was now back in England and had just arrived at the Bristol apartment he had been renting to a friend.
Reid claims that Romaine Hyman was using the apartment to make crack cocaine while he was away practicing.
He says that when the cops showed up, he learned about it for the first time.
He was detained in May 2020 as part of an operation to shut down an encrypted communications service, which was directed by the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit.
“It’s obviously really upsetting,” Reid says by the beach in Worthing. “It’s been everything I’ve tried to get away from my whole life (drugs) and getting put back into that sort of that circle, it was just nothing that I had ever dreamed that I’d ever be involved in, ever.”
Ordered to carry out community sentence
While awaiting trial, he was still able to go to the Olympics – after appealing against an Irish deselection decision – and made the 200m semi-finals in Tokyo in 2021.
Then came his trial last year and a conviction for allowing his flat to be used for the production of cocaine and receiving payment, which text messages showed to be £500.
Reid was ordered to carry out community service. Hyman was jailed for 26 years after being found guilty of 18 offences in the crackdown on his attempt to build a drugs empire.
“I was there training for the Olympics. I was at the peak of my career,” Reid recalled. “I wasn’t really focused on my friend. He was doing his work-out in the apartment, which obviously he said it was forex trading and things like that, which I’ve got no interest in.”
How could Reid have missed the fact that cocaine was being made in the apartment?
“He was making sure that I was out of the apartment,” he responded. “I was on a WADA drug list, so even if I touched a door handle that did have traces of drugs on, I would get a positive drug test and I would fail that, and I would lose my career. So I was in no position to risk that on any scale.”
‘It destroyed my career and also my reputation’
Reid claims that when performing a favor for a friend, he was “too casual about the whole situation” and that “I didn’t need the money.”
He had attained success, status, and sponsors. But after the conviction, they abandoned him.
His participation at the Commonwealth Games last year was also prohibited because Birmingham organizers saw him as a security danger.
“It destroyed my career,” he says. “And also my reputation.”
Income was gone, and debt increased. Reid realized his profession would have to cease with the birth of his first child a month ago.
But he never seems irritated during our entire hour-long conversation. even not past the treachery.
“Controlling emotions is obviously super important in sport, and you obviously have to take that into life,” Reid says. “I can’t get angry over every little thing.
“And for the past two years I’ve been sort of like living this nightmare. So for me to be able to clear the air and actually get some fresh start, then that’s more important than me getting angry about someone … in prison.”
Instead, he wants to use his tragedy to support athletes who are still competing professionally. He is starting a coaching company so he can quit his temporary telesales job.
“I fought my demons of the past two years,” Reid says. “I’ve had the no sleep nights and the cry myself to sleep. But now I’m looking forward to the future.”