The British Olympic Association (BOA) appear determined to keep Dwain Chambers, arguably Great Britain’s most famous sprinter of the last decade (perhaps for the wrong reasons) and currently one of the fastest men available to Charles van Commenee, out of London 2012. So determined, in fact, that the BOA has taken its case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) to overturn a World Anti-Doping Association (Wada) ruling that its unconventional life ban for athletes found guilty of using drugs is too excessive.
The likelihood is, it appears, that the ruling will be upheld and Chambers will available for selection.
This, in itself, does not guarantee the 34-year-old a place in the squad, but former 4x100m relay teammate Marlon Devonish, also in line for a place in the Olympics, said today he would think nothing of running in a team alongside Chambers. Chambers and Devonish - along with Darren Campbell and Christian Malcolm – won the 2003 World Championships silver medal, only to have it revoked after Chambers later tested positive for the banned substance THG.
“I think the whole world should have the same system and that the ban should be longer,” Devonish told the Press Association today. “Four years would be about right. Four years means you miss an Olympics and that is more of a deterrent.”
There have been numerous opinions voiced by prominent members of the British Olympic fraternity on the Chambers-BOA battle in recent days. Retired triple-jumper Jonathan Edwards agrees with Devonish that the penalty is too severe; cyclist Sir Chris Hoy and hurdler Dai Greene have argued that they see no reason for the BOA to follow the global standard and allow convicted cheats a way back into the sport. Pointedly, Campbell, another of Chambers’ former teammates, has said more than once he doesn’t believe his old colleague should be at the Games.
Though the BOA looks as if it is ready to throw in the towel as the Cas appeal continues to go against it, the very fact that the case has reached this stage indicates its firm belief in the life Olympic ban, a practise not employed by any other national Olympic committee. Athletes remain eligible to compete for Team GB in other tournaments – and Chambers has, most notably combining with Campbell, Devonish and Mark Lewis-Francis to win the 2006 European Championships 4x100m relay.
There is no doubting Chambers has worked his way back into form; the veteran is currently once again regarded as Britain’s best sprinter following a long comeback trail which has produced success on the athletics track and other, less… orthodox career diversions – namely through NFL Europa with the Hamburg Sea Devils and a failed rugby league stint with the Castleford Tigers. Victor Conte, who considers himself a friend of Chambers’ yet is also the man behind the BALCO doping scandal, told the BBC this week he believes Chambers has served his time and deserves a second chance.
Chambers’ reception from his athletics peers, however, will be how the story is defined in terms of that oft-exaggerated phrase “path to redemption”. After the 2006 triumph, Campbell refused to join the rest of the team on a lap of honour, having not forgiven Chambers for the two medals he had been shorn of thanks to his colleague’s drug abuse. So if Chambers is both cleared for, and selected for, the Olympic relay this time, will he expect any less frosty a reception?
The likes of Simeon Williamson and Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, two of the new generation of British sprinters, have never teamed up with Chambers. Would they be prepared to do so now? Perhaps for Devonish and Lewis-Francis, still in contention for selection, re-uniting with an old teammate is a more attractive proposition. Williamson and Aikines-Aryeetey, not to mention the majority of the British Olympic squad, will have grown up watching the Chambers saga unfold in late 2003 and the many scandals athletics has suffered with doping since – Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery spring to mind – and for them, teaming up with Chambers may be a less appealing possibility.
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