AN ex-Olympic athlete who injected MCAT 20 times a day was at a crossroads in his life as he sat in the dock at Barnsley Magistrates' Court.

Matthew Bailey, 32, was an 800 metres runner who was picked for the GB team for the 2004 Athens Olympics. It was heard that he was injecting the drug 20 times a day when he embarked on a shoplifting spree only 48 hours after being freed from jail and wanted help.

Bailey's drug use at one stage became so bad that he heard voices, but he's since cut down his daily MCAT injections to eight.

Gemma Casterton, a worker with the drugs agency Phoenix Futures who interviewed Bailey in the cells before he was jailed for 48 weeks, said: "He says he wants help more than anything else in his life.

"But he has had appointments fixed up for him in the past. There were times he did not attend, or turned up when he was in crisis. Those times were peppered with offences."

Alan Greaves, defending, compared Bailey's fall from grace and 'sad and chaotic' life to that of a retired footballer who turns to drink after the adrenaline rush of playing vanishes.

He said: "The thefts were inept and blatant. He left shops carrying goods in baskets. He expected to be followed out and apprehended.

"During his last spell in jail, he spoke to someone in athletics. Once he has got himself out of this mess, there might be a coaching position for him.

"That has provided him with light at the end of a long, dark tunnel."

District Judge John Foster said Bailey, of Holden House, Race Street, Barnsley, had committed 32 thefts since 2010.

He said he had thought carefully about imposing a suspended sentence but had to send Bailey straight behind bars because of his record. "You go to prison, come out and are at it again," said Mr Foster.

Bailey, whose athletics career was ended when he was diagnosed with the stress related illness ME, admitted six thefts from branches of Asda and the Co-op in Cudworth and Grimethorpe.

Chantel Lowery-Green, prosecuting, said: "Mr Bailey went on his spree of offending only two days after being released from prison."