Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad has retired at 37 ©Getty Images

France's three-time Olympic steeplechase medallist and five-time European champion Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad has announced his retirement from athletics at the age of 37.

One of the controversial characters of European distance running during the 2010s, he is also one of France's most decorated athletes of the century.

He burst on to the scene at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, setting a new personal best in the men's 3,000 metres steeplechase final to take the silver medal, splitting the Kenyans Brimin Kiprop Kipruto and Richard Kipkemboi Mateelong.

It was his first senior medal on the international stage.

Four years later, he again split Kenyans - Ezekiel Kemboi and Abel Mutai - and again lost out in a sprint finish for the title, taking silver at London 2012.

At Rio 2016, Mekhissi-Benabbad finished fourth behind Conseslus Kipruto of Kenya, Evan Jager of United States and Kemboi, but was promoted to bronze when Kemboi was disqualified for stepping off the track after a water jump.

Notably, the Frenchman lost out to Kemboi a few times, winning bronze behind the Kenyan gold medallist at the 2011 and 2013 World Championships.

At the European Championships, he was unstoppable - winning four steeplechase titles and the men's 1500m gold in 2014.

He crossed the line first in every European Championships final he competed in, but his only "loss" came from a disqualification for taking off his vest in the final 100m of the 2014 3,000m steeplechase final to celebrate.

Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad was disqualified in 2014 at the European Championships for taking his vest off mid-race ©Getty Images
Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad was disqualified in 2014 at the European Championships for taking his vest off mid-race ©Getty Images

Mekhissi-Benabbad held his vest between his teeth as he hurdled the final barrier and ended the race topless - only to have his result wiped for breaking rules over the visibility of his bib.

He came back days later to win the men's 1500m that same year.

It was not the only controversy in his career, particularly in his early years.

At the 2010 European Championships he asked the mascot, Barni, to kneel, only to push him over.

He repeated this at the 2012 European Championships with the mascot Appy, shoving a 14-year-old girl who was in the costume, who was winded as a result, as well as smacking a gift bag out of their hand.

In 2011, he was given a five-month ban along with compatriot Mehdi Baala by the French Athletics Federation for having an on-track fight after the men's 1500m race on the Diamond League circuit in Monaco.

Both were fined €1,500 (£1,300/$1,600) and ordered to undertake 50 hours of community service.