Todd's 'secret life' - the claims

When asked by the Listener in 1992 about Jilly Cooper's raunchy novel Riders, which revels in tales of sex and lust on the English horse circuit, Mark Todd replied: "It was a bit conservative. A bit understated, but otherwise quite good."

If drugs and sex allegations about the double Olympic gold medallist in a British Sunday newspaper are true, then the racy novel may indeed be a bit tame.

Todd has been accorded the sort of hero-worship in New Zealand reserved for top All Black sportsmen.

We saw him on television hobnobbing with royalty and nobility; we applauded when he received the adulation of the world's media for his sporting prowess.

He has been voted the most successful three-day eventer of the century, a "genius at work."

"We have never seen such a man," said the illustrious Sunday Times in London.

In New Zealand, he was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame, and was a sportsman of the year and personality of the year.

Last month, the Waikato dubbed the former farmer "equestrian of the century."

Princess Anne's former husband, Captain Mark Phillips, described Todd as "the most gifted three-day event rider the world has ever seen."

In a highly charged and emotional moment in New Zealand's sporting history, Todd, riding Charisma, carried the Queen's baton into Mt Smart Stadium to start the 1990 Commonwealth Games.

He has even been tipped for a knighthood.

In short, he was a hero who could do no wrong.

But now claims in the Sunday Mirror - which the paper says Todd refused to discuss with them - have raised serious questions.

Last night, Todd accused the paper of a disgraceful and unjustifiable intrusion into his private life and said he was taking legal advice.

He said he had been the victim of a "squalid tabloid setup" and had been advised for legal reasons not to make any comment on "the many distortions and untruths" in the story, which had caused great distress to him and his family.

The Sunday Mirror, however, stood by its story and said in an editorial that Todd was a disgrace and should be stripped of his medals and honours.

The paper claims that 44-year-old Todd snorted cocaine in a hotel with another man and that the New Zealander, hailed as one of the 100 greatest sportsmen of all time, holder of the CBE and friend of the royal family, has led a double life.

It says that only last Wednesday, as his wife Carolyn was sorting out their new home in New Zealand, Todd was taking cocaine and boasting about how he planned to outwit tough drug-testing procedures before the Sydney Olympic Games in September.

Todd reportedly said: "Do you want a line of coke? I enjoy smoking grass best of all but I can't do this because it stays in the system for about three weeks or so.

"We have been told that we would be tested before the Olympics."

He then apparently joked: "I'm an Olympic athlete, my boy. I'm in serious training."

Then, according to the lengthy article, Todd, who was made an MBE by the Queen in 1984 and a CBE in 1995, said: "My favourite drug of all is Ecstasy."

In the past Todd, who owns an 81ha farm in Gloucestershire, has spoken of the evils of drugs. He says he fears for his 11-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son.

In his autobiography So Far, So Good, he states: "You read all these stories about kids going off the rails, running away and getting into drugs, all sorts of horrific things, and that really terrifies me."

The Sunday Mirror says such concerns seemed far from his mind last Wednesday.

In its account, Todd arranged to meet the man - who asked to be identified as David - at the hotel.

During the phone call, Todd allegedly promised: "I will bring some gear."

He parked his Saab Estate at the back of the hotel at 3.30 pm. According to the paper, he smiled at David, who was drinking a beer at a patio table, before shaking hands.

Todd then removed a black holdall from the boot of the car and a canvas bag. Five minutes later, he entered room 109.

He put the bags down and removed a package. Hidden in a newspaper was a bottle of New Zealand Lindauer rose sparkling wine.

Todd produced two champagne glasses and poured the wine, which costs sterling 7.49 from Threshers. He said: "Do you like pink champagne? It goes well with the cocaine."

Todd, dressed in a jumper and jeans, slumped on the double bed. He told David: "A lot of people would be wetting themselves if they knew I was here."

He revealed he had brought along his full equestrian riding kit - including boots with his name printed on them.

Then he said: "Do you want a line of coke?" David declined as Todd removed a small, black leather pouch from the holdall and took out a folded piece of paper.

He sprinkled the white powder on the coffee table. Then he cut the cocaine into two lines with his bank card.

Todd knelt by the coffee table and snorted a line of coke. He said: "I don't normally do it, actually. Do you know, this is the first time I have ever bought any."

There followed a candid confession about drug-taking - and his awareness of Olympic drug-testing.

Todd revealed that Carolyn was in New Zealand dealing with a property they had bought - they plan to move there on September 4 to breed horses.

He explained that she was due to fly back into Heathrow yesterday from Auckland, landing at 6 am.

"She loves me, I guess. We have a pretty good relationship."

During the conversation, the paper says, Todd was paranoid about people finding out.

He said he knew he had everything to lose, including sponsorship deals with Saab and Toyota. But he acknowledged that was just the tip of the iceberg.

"You don't understand that in my position, doing this stuff, I can be kicked out of the country. I can be banned from the Olympics.

"Doing what I am doing with you, I can lose my marriage and lose my life. I don't want that."

Todd also revealed how he feared that a newspaper would expose details of his private life four years ago.

The Sunday Mirror revelations will shock the royal family, the equestrian world and the International Olympic Committee.

Todd is recognised as the foremost horseman in eventing.

He grew up near Cambridge and in 1980 sold his dairy herd to pay for a trip to England. He won Badminton, Britain's premier three-day event, and has subsequently won the title three times.

But his greatest glory was winning two consecutive Olympic golds in 1984 and 1988 on his favourite horse, Charisma.

His talent also brought acceptance by the equestrian nobility, who shared his love of a good party.

In 1986, Todd helped Mark Phillips celebrate the British team winning gold at the world championship.

In a chapter in his book entitled Every Excuse For A Party, he wrote: "We had one hell of a night. Scotty and Mark Phillips were up there dancing on the tables and I'm sure I got up there at some stage."

The same year he married blonde Wellington model and horsewoman Carolyn Berry. Their daughter was born in 1988 and son in 1993.

There were also scrapes with the law, including a conviction for drunk-driving that saw him banned for a year. The paper says Todd refused to discuss the allegations.

After the Sydney Olympics, where Todd is considered a strong medal prospect, he intends retiring to the Cambridge property with his family and Charisma.

In a change of sporting code, he plans to breed and train racehorses at the $1.2 million farm.

Since first venturing overseas in 1979, Todd has elevated three-day eventing to the same profile enjoyed by the All Blacks.

Double Olympic gold medallist, five times Burghley champion, four times British open champion - his list of achievements seem endless.

Despite his success, his chosen sport was expensive, requiring him to supplement his income with farming in the Cotswolds and obtaining sponsorship from Bell Tea.

On their 80ha Poplar's Farm, the Todds worked up to 25 horses a season and also harvested 52ha of corn.

But if the Sunday Mirror is to be believed, despite his privileged life and success, Todd has been taking risks that could lead to his downfall.

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