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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 February, 2004, 15:48 GMT
Where now for Dwain?
By Tom Fordyce

On Tuesday afternoon, Dwain Chambers was given a two-year ban from athletics after testing positive for the banned steroid THG.

But what exactly does that mean to the man who just a few months ago was being tipped for Olympic 100m gold this summer?


Dwain Chambers competes for Great Britain at the World Championships in Paris
Chambers' future is on the line
In strictly financial terms, Chambers faces a catastrophic future.

Last year, according to American website Track Profile News Service, he earned 125,000 through prize money and bonuses alone, making him the fourth highest-earning male in world athletics.

Compounding the loss of similar earnings during a ban is the end of his National Lottery elite athlete funding, plus a lucrative sponsorship deal.

Chambers is currently on a deal believed to be worth more than 100,000 a year with adidas, a deal which with performance bonuses could have risen to more than 500,000 over four years.

Olympic gold would have secured him a 50,000 bonus. All that is likely to go now he has been found guilty.

Athletics wilderness

Although Chambers will only be 27 years old when a two-year ban expired, the chances of a successful return to the track would seem slim.

Linford Christie took Olympic gold at 32, and won the World 100m title at 33. But Chambers finds himself automatically excluded from any future British Olympic team under BOA rules.

Precedent suggests that he would struggle to make any sort of impact on his return from the athletics wilderness.

For the last few years, Chambers has been one of the biggest draws on the athletics circuit. But few sponsors want a disgraced athlete at their meet. Those profitable invitations would soon dry up.

Then there is the straightforward issue of whether he could ever run fast enough to compete again at the highest level.

Dwain Chambers catches an American football
Chambers has already had a work-out with NFL Europe coaches

Ben Johnson tried to make a comeback after being banned for four years following his positive test for steroids at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, but trailed home last in his first-round heat at the '92 Games.

He then tested positive again in March 1993 and was banned for life.

Britain's Jason Livingston, like Chambers once hailed as the future of British sprinting, suffered a similar fate after serving his own four-year ban for taking steroids in 1992.

The former European 60m champion made a couple of half-decent indoor appearances three years ago, but never got close to his former times outdoors and is no longer involved in athletics.

"The hardest bit is trying to prove yourself to everyone else," said Livingston. "I was trying too hard. I carried a lot of baggage."

The American dream

So what else can Chambers do, and where might the money come from?

Chambers has already had a try-out with NFL Europe coaches and was due to fly to Tampa next week to receive one-on-one tuition at an NFL training camp.

Whether he could actually make it into the professional leagues is another matter. One athletics insider has already dismissed his chances as a mere publicity stunt designed to keep him in the public eye.

Sprinters have had some success in converting into American football players.

The 1964 Olympic 100m champion Bob Hayes won a Super Bowl championship during a 10-year career with the Dallas Cowboys, while former 110 metres hurdles world champion Renaldo Nehemiah won a Super Bowl ring as a member of the 1984 San Francisco 49ers.

And in 1985, Willie Gault, part of the USA's gold medal-winning 100m relay team in Los Angeles, was a wide receiver on the Chicago Bears' Super Bowl-winning team.

The NFL's Tony Allen says: "Dwain's speed means that he has a great head start in converting to American football. He has definite potential as a wide receiver. We are really excited about what we have seen so far."

But that comment has to be taken in the context of an organisation looking for news coverage in Britain. Chambers has no background in ball sports, has never had to jink past a lineman and has no experience of contact sports.

The odds of him ever appearing in an NFL game are stacked against him.

Meanwhile, his potential financial problems have been highlighted by the fact his agents have attempted to sell the rights to a behind-the-scenes television documentary on his hearing and NFL experiment.

The figure mentioned is in the region of 25,000 - peanuts compared to what he could have expected to earn in Olympic year.

The future for one of Britain's brightest athletics talents is a bleak place indeed.





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