TALKING SPORT WITH NEIL TRAINIS
PUBLISHED: 12:32 14 February 2008 | UPDATED: 14:11 02 July 2010
THE majority of us wanting athletics washed and towelled dry of the dirt that blights it and wishing to see Dwain Chambers harassed out of track and field for good may be better off venting our spleen at the body which is supposed to govern the sport in t
THE majority of us wanting athletics washed and towelled dry of the dirt that blights it and wishing to see Dwain Chambers harassed out of track and field for good may be better off venting our spleen at the body which is supposed to govern the sport in the UK.
At first glance the welcoming back into the competitive fold by UK Athletics of a man who failed a drugs test in 2003 and was found two months later to have taken the banned substance tetrahydrogestrinone (THG), appears irrational but closer inspection reveals a retrospective ignorance.
How else can one explain how Chambers, who insisted in an interview with the BBC in 2005 that he did not know what affect THG would have despite admitting to being "a bit suspicious about why you would put it under your tongue," has begun to force his way back on to an athletics stage he seemed destined never to return to.
UKA may cry foul at having to include the 29-year-old in Great Britain's squad for the World Indoor Championships in Valencia, suggesting as it did soon after naming him that "the committee was unanimous in its desire not to select Dwain," but the organisation needs to take a long, hard look at itself.
Governing bodies promising to stand firm against athletes who attempt to cheat their way to glory is a ridiculous notion if that body has its hands cuffed behind its back by the inadequacy of its own rules and subsequently fails to shut off all routes back into the sport for drugs cheats.
What should be made clear is that Chambers should never be allowed to compete in a Great Britain vest, or any club vest for that matter, again, yet the animosity he has already encountered, and is sure face in the future, overshadows a salient point; none of this is his fault.
What else did athletics followers and athletes, many of whom are united in their weariness of watching their sport sullied by episode after episode of illicit drug taking, expect?
That Chambers, having failed to carve out a career in American football, would fade into the shadows after serving his two-year ban?
That, having won the 60m at the World Indoor Trials and National Championships in Sheffield, thus securing his selection for Valencia, he would take a bow, smile courteously, thank everyone who had made his comeback possible (predominantly UKA) before disappearing into the darkness?
Chambers wants to run again and is making every effort to ensure his return to professional athletics and that means exploiting every possible loophole. Who can blame him?
The onus on stopping Chambers competing does not lie with the athlete himself but with UKA although they have left themselves unforgivably open and consequently impotent to act.
UKA claim Chambers has not been on its drug-testing programme since 2006 and maintain he must be regularly drug-tested over the next 12 months before they will consider him again for GB selection.
Haziness, though, lies within the flimsy nature of UKA's rules which state that any athlete who retires then returns is subject to such a requirement but Chambers, inevitably, denied that he had retired and suggested it was UKA's decision to take him off the register.
With the threat of legal action hanging over UKA from Chambers' lawyers and pressure from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the UK's governing body was forced to back down on its threat to stop him running in Sheffield.
By that point, UKA had hardly projected an image of the resilient, effective regulator it aspires to be and upon being backed into a corner and naming Chambers for Valencia, the body then denied it had bowed to outside pressures and selected him purely on his display in Sheffield.
"The committee felt that the selection criteria pertaining to the winner of the trials, coupled with the manner of Dwain's performance, left them no room to take any other decision," it said in a statement before burbling on about his inclusion denying "young, upwardly mobile, committed athletes of this key development opportunity."
The last statement should only add to the disappointment casual observers feel at UKA, not fuel anger towards Chambers, which is what is was perhaps designed to do.
It is not Chambers who has deprived a young, talented athlete a place at Valencia, it is UKA, yet their comments after he had won the 60m appeared to place him at the centre of blame for his own inclusion.
"We have to take an individual whose sudden return, especially when considered against his previous actions and comments, suggests that he may be using the whole process for his own ends," UKA continued, having also named Carl Myerscough, the shot putter banned in 1999 for taking steroids, in its team for Valencia.
Collective attention was on an intense character assassination instead of the source of the problem - UKA's inherent deficiencies in dealing effectively with athletes who serve drugs bans then return to athletics.
Chambers can no longer receive lottery funding but the punch-line is that the organisation have to fund his trip to Valencia as he is part of their squad.
The remedy was simple. UKA should have followed the British Olympic Association's (BOA) example in banning for life athletes convicted of taking prohibited substances, instead of encouraging them to come back with ambiguously worded regulations.
Niels de Vos, the UKA chief executive, has insisted that an "urgent" review of their doping policy should be completed by the summer. Had it been sooner an affair that has made the UK governing body a laughing stock would have been avoided.