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Champion swimmer to drug addict: Ian Raynor’s story

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A sad day for Mark Raynor is when he sees his “little brother” begging on the streets of Hamilton.

Ian was a champion swimmer who proudly represented Bermuda until he started using drugs in his early twenties.

Since then he has been in and out of prison; attempts at treatment for his cocaine addiction here and abroad have only had short-term success. Three months ago he suffered a stroke, at age 48.

Unable to continue working as a mason and having had no luck in his efforts to get financial help from government, he asked Mark to start a GoFundMe page to raise cash.

The 51-year-old turned to family and friends on Facebook instead: “What do you know about our brother Ian? Who is Ian Steed Raynor in your opinion? A drug addict who brought this condition on himself – and thus the possible attitude could be derived he made his bed he has to lie in it – or a victim who made a very bad initial choice which stripped him of his life and full potential?

“The Ian I grew up with was a shy kid who ran from trouble. He was humble and honest and very generous. We grew up as health nuts due to our ambitions to do our best in our sports. Smoking and drinking or drugs were out of the question. We dedicated our time to martial arts, swimming and hitting the gym.

“Where me and my other brother had our enjoyable habits, with Lee doing cricket and track like our legendary dad Lee Sr, I stuck with the gym and martial arts. But Ian had talents unlimited!”

Although his brother could use the cash the post wasn’t made with that in mind, Mark told The Royal Gazette.

“Where there’s life there’s hope – that’s my motto. I don’t want his struggle to be a waste. If his challenge can inspire someone else to improve, at least his suffering has been worth something.

“I’m not trying to get any glory – look at me I’m such a great brother. It’s not about that at all. This guy deserves to be properly respected.

“It’s upsetting to me that the government doesn’t want to help him financially, because he put Bermuda on the map. And now that he needs help it’s like, ‘Sorry Mr Raynor …’ That’s why I’m on Facebook, not to solicit but help people to see his true story. Anybody who wants to give a monetary contribution, that’s their choice. Even if it’s a phone call and a card – it doesn’t have to be money. People may get that impression that I’m asking for money but it’s not about that.”

Ian walks with a cane and is unable to work because of the damage the stroke did to the left side of his body. Now 49, an MRI taken while he was in hospital shows how both sides of his brain have been impacted by his drug and alcohol use.

“He needs help. If he can’t work he can’t eat and I can’t afford to feed him,” said Mark who does what he can but has three young daughters as his primary focus.

“When they scanned his brain, it’s discoloured; it’s not like our brains. The tissue is visibly harmed and injured.

“If the brain is damaged he can’t think 100 per cent. His brain is not going to make the choices he needs to make to fully recover. The old habits give him comfort; the drinking makes him feel normal but it’s doing damage every time he takes a drink.”

That people today look at his brother and see him as someone to be wary of is also upsetting.

“Unfortunately he’s been around begging for money to get alcohol. That’s all the public would see – and that is not the true Ian. I want people to know who he really is and how kind the guy is. He has a conscience; he has a book with all the names of people he borrowed money from to get his drugs and I have seen him take his paycheque and go around looking for these people to pay them, but then he relapses.

“My hurt is to see him walking around the streets like a vagabond. People who don’t know him will draw wrong opinions – that he’s some loser. He’s far from a loser. This guy can teach people how to be people, absent the drugs.”

A talented swimmer from his early years, Ian qualified for the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. Then 21, he won his heat in the 100m butterfly in 59.03.

“We were very close from little,” said Mark. “He’s always been shy; I’ve always been the more outgoing one and he always used to follow whatever I did.

“I was a good athlete but I wasn’t outstanding like he was. He went to the Olympics. I just kept doing every sport you could think about but he would stick to the swimming because he excelled at it. He went all over the world, broke records, went to the Olympics and won his heat.”

Although he “didn’t catch” that his brother was drinking before, it became obvious shortly after Ian returned from Spain.

“The swimming culture is a healthy culture but it’s also got a dark side to it in the sense that, after all the hard, intensive training the kid athletes would have their barbecue parties and alcohol,” Mark said. “And you would think it would be supervised by adults – they were teenagers, minors – but for some reason my brother started to drink at these gatherings and after a while it became something he enjoyed.

“It brought out his social side. It made him feel like he could fit in. He was performing well and getting all this attention because he broke records but when things quieted down and it was just these normal interactive hours of socialising he felt like a misfit. The alcohol is what made him funny and he enjoyed being that person.”

Ian was addicted to cocaine by the time he was 24. He first tried it unknowingly, when “somebody put [it] in a marijuana joint”.

“It started Ian’s downward spiral from one of the most talented and physically fit persons I know, into a mere struggling victim,” said Mark.

“I just noticed he wasn’t waking up early and he was getting more irresponsible in his early 20s and then he confessed that he tried cocaine … and he’s been doing it ever since.”

Having read Mark’s Facebook post a number of people from Bermuda’s swimming community have reached out. Nick Thomson, the owner of Scooter Mart, insisted on giving cash.

“Ian was in prison for almost a year, cleaned up, came out of prison and started to swim for just a few weeks, maybe a month,” Mark said. “He just entered a swim meet randomly where Roy-Allan Burch, the recent Bermuda Olympic representative, was in the race. Ian almost beat him.

“Ian was in his late 30s. Ian was ten years older and almost beat him and [did] beat Nick. Nick has the highest respect for Ian because Nick knows Ian was doing drugs and this drug addict beat him.”

Being clean also allowed Ian to “reflect and write music”, one of his childhood outlets despite his only instruction coming from the classes he took in school.

“It’s all him,” said Mark. “He hears music and picks it up. He went on the piano and started to mess around with his fingers and before you know it he’s playing.”

At the moment, Ian lives with his mother and is focused on the song attached to this article that he wrote and composed while in prison, and dedicated to her. According to Mark, his brother would like to make changes to it but thinks his voice muscles were also affected by his stroke.

“He has a book of all sorts of poetry, sketches and songs. This is just one of many songs, one that he produced.

“He used to play cello as a kid so he wants to add a stringed instrument to the music. I’ve gotten in contact with other people in the music industry to see how we can develop Ian’s song. He doesn’t think he can sing any more but I guess with practice he maybe can get back to it – if he’s determined enough.

“But he’s willing to sell his lyrics, the song writing and maybe he can make some money from it. It has inspired a lot of people.”

Reach out to Ian Raynor through his brother Mark: 536-5200; mraynor00@gmail.com

Ten years ago, having been in prison for a year, Ian Raynor (left) entered a swimming competition and placed second behind Roy-Allan Burch, the Olympic swimmer and national record holder. Nick Thomson placed third (Photograph supplied)
Mark Raynor with his brother Ian, before he could swim (Photograph supplied)
Mark Raynor’s daughters spot their uncle Ian’s name on a list of Bermuda’s Olympic athletes (Photograph supplied)
Mark Raynor (left) with his brother Ian (Photograph supplied)

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Published February 19, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated February 19, 2021 at 8:14 am)

Champion swimmer to drug addict: Ian Raynor’s story

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