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Last Updated: Monday, 12 December 2005, 09:11 GMT
Dwain's future
By Tom Fordyce

After two years on the sidelines, Dwain Chambers is almost able to compete again.

Dwain Chambers

The two-year ban imposed on him after he tested positive for the steroid THG in 2003 ends early in 2006 - and the financially-stricken Chambers has announced that he is targeting a return to competitive sprinting.

But what chance does he have of returning to the sort of form that won him European 100m gold in 2002 - and what reception will he get after the fresh revelations he made to BBC Sport?

Chambers has changed both mentally and physically during the course of his ban.

The immense, steroid-fuelled muscular build that attracted so much comment during the summer of 2003 has been slimmed down from 94kg to 86kg.

With it has gone the stereotypical sprinter's bluster and braggadocio. In his first interview since being banned, Chambers told the BBC: "I don't know if you can even imagine what I've been going through."

Chambers has now left behind Remi Korchemny - the veteran coach who first took him to the USA and introduced him to Victor Conte, a self-made nutritional expert and founder of Balco, the pharmaceutical company at the heart of the THG scandal.

Instead he has headed to Jamaica, the birthplace of his father.

I have to eat humble pie and start from scratch
Dwain Chambers

Chambers has teamed up with Glen Mills, who also coaches Kim Collins - the man who beat Chambers to Commonwealth 100m gold in 2002 and the world title a year later.

He has been back in serious training for less than four months, and with selection for March's Commonwealth Games already decided, that leaves only one big target for next summer: the defence of his European 100m crown.

So far, Chambers has been pleased with his progress.

"The coach doesn't see me as someone who has been out for two years," he said.

"He saw me as a rusty nail, but I'm still gleaming."

Local rivals

First things first. For Chambers to retain his title, he needs to be selected to run.

That means either finishing in the top two at the British trials, or running well enough all season to get the third, discretionary, place.

In his favour, British sprinting has not exactly moved on in his absence.

Despite the 4x100m relay gold at the Athens Olympics, none of the established names - Jason Gardener, Darren Campbell, Mark Lewis-Francis, Marlon Devonish or Christian Malcolm - have bettered their personal bests while Chambers has been out.

Young talent has started to come through in the shape of Craig Pickering and Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, but neither of those tyros are yet running the times that pre-ban Chambers managed.

Dwain Chambers
Chambers has shed eight kilogrammes

A bigger issue for Chambers may be the reception he gets from other members of the British team.

Chambers' ban cost his 4x100m relay team-mates their silver medals from the 2003 World Championships.

And his admission that he first started taking THG at the start of 2002 may now see the same relay team stripped of their golds from the last European Championships.

"Certain members of the British team and the athletics world will see me as the athlete who got caught taking drugs," he said.

"I have to eat humble pie and start from scratch. If there's an opportunity for me to make it up to the relay squad, I want to take it."

Banned for life

The precedents for athletes returning from drugs bans are not encouraging.

Canada's 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 from athletics for life, leaving him an itinerant who briefly coached Diego Maradona and was once hired by Colonel Gaddafi to train his son Al-Saadi.

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, dubbed "Baby Ben" for his resemblance to Johnson, made a couple of half-decent indoor appearances five 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."

Darren Campbell
If he's sincere, I can't see why he won't come back and be successful

Katrin Krabbe, the East German phenomenon who completed a 100m/200m double at 1990 Europeans and 1991 Worlds, is another cautionary tale.

After testing positive in 1992, she never won another major medal.

But Chambers' former Great Britain team-mate Campbell is more optimistic of his chances of a successful - and medal-winning - return.

"If he really wants it and wants it for the right reasons, and if he teaches people the errors he made along the way, I think he can do it," said Campbell.

"If he's sincere, I can't see why he won't come back and be successful."

At a time when British athletics is struggling for international success like never before, the prospect of a Chambers back to his former glory - however tarnished that was - may actually be something the sport needs more than anyone would like to admit.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Exclusive: Dwain Chambers speaks to the BBC



SEE ALSO
I was in gutter, admits Chambers
10 Dec 05 |  Athletics
Chambers comes clean
10 Dec 05 |  Athletics
Campbell backs 'wrecked' Chambers
07 Nov 05 |  Athletics
Balco boss begins jail sentence
18 Oct 05 |  Athletics
Chambers return runs into delay
28 Oct 05 |  Athletics
Collins calls for Chambers return
16 Feb 05 |  Athletics
Chambers gets two-year ban
24 Feb 04 |  Athletics


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