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Steve Cram column

Steve Cram
By Steve Cram
BBC Sport commentator

If I was a selector, I wouldn't pick Dwain Chambers to represent Britain in the 60m at the World Indoor Championships.

By taking performance-enhancing drugs, Chambers did an awful lot of damage to the sport, both in the UK and internationally; and as a former athlete it's not as easy to be quite as forgiving as the general public might be.

Dwain Chambers
Chambers won the 60m title but will he be selected for the Worlds?

I know Chambers has served a two-year ban. But, when you know how much hard work people put into the sport, sometimes it's hard to say: "Oh well, he's served his time."

I do agree with that point of view to some extent, but the tide of opinion has begun to turn since Dwain made his comeback two years ago.

Dwain looked very good at the trials on Sunday, and if he continues to be that good then it will just deepen my regret - and I'm sure his too - that he went the way he did.

He was clearly a very talented athlete and he is now showing that taking drugs was a bad decision, not least because he was good enough without them.

Dwain received some cheers from the crowd. But those who weren't happy to see him back competing weren't exactly going to get up and boo him - they are pretty polite people in athletics.

Having said that, I'm a bit saddened by the way some have reacted to his comeback, as Dwain Chambers is not a horrible person.

Even if Dwain is allowed to compete at the World Indoors, I don't think this will be the last battle he will find himself trying to fight

The British selectors now have to decide whether to pick him for the World Indoors in Valencia next month, and I really don't know which way they are going to go.

In any sport, I'm fully behind a governing body or a group of selectors having the right to decide who represents their country, whether that's from a purely sporting or moral point of view.

In theory, the race winner should be chosen, but it all depends how they interpret the "exceptional circumstances" clauses.

Chambers's doping conviction means he cannot run in the Olympics, and if there are athletes in contention who are likely to go on to win a medal in Beijing this summer then selectors can choose those athletes.

And even without the Chambers issue, I'm a big believer in using competitions like the World Indoors to give people like Simeon Williamson, runner-up at the trials, and Craig Pickering a chance.

Another clause also allows them to make value judgements in certain circumstances so they reserve the right to take another athlete even if someone else has performed better than them.

If UK Athletics (UKA) was to challenge Dwain's right to selection it would probably be on the basis of that clause.

606: DEBATE
BBC's Sarah Holt

I've no idea whether Dwain plans to contest the selectors' decision if he is not chosen for the World Indoors, although it certainly sounded like his lawyer was prepared to do that.

The clause would be open to interpretation if it ever goes to a court of law, which I hope it doesn't, but I don't think a selection policy is the law of the land.

UKA wants to have a stronger stance than it has had in the past on people who have been found guilty of serious drugs offences.

But the governing body might decide that this is not the right time to fight this battle.

Either way, I don't think UKA has played this out very well and would probably prefer if it could put this episode behind it and move forward.

But it will probably be a little while before that happens.

Even if Dwain is allow to compete at the World Indoors, I don't think this will be the last battle he will find himself trying to fight.

There is a gathering momentum from athletics' governing bodies, the agents, the European Athletics Association, the meeting promoters, the sport's governing body, and the World Anti-Doping Agency to take a stronger stance on people who have been guilty of drug offences.

There is a meeting the day after the world championships with the agents and the meet promoters and I think they are going to pass a resolution that, starting this summer, they are not going to allow anyone who has had a two-year ban to compete.

So, sad though it might be for Dwain in terms of his comeback, I think he will just find more and more barriers placed in his way.

I don't think a two-year ban is ever enough punishment, and I'm saying that for all drugs cheats, not just Dwain. It just shouldn't be that easy to come back.

We are looking towards the 2012 Olympics and want to build interest and excitement in athletics, and success on the right basis.

In order for that to happen we have to encourage our young athletes to take part in the right competitions and the World Indoors is a great place to send two of Britain's young sprinters.

Steve Cram was talking to Sarah Holt

see also
Chambers gives selectors headache
10 Feb 08 |  Athletics
Chambers row sparks rules rethink
08 Feb 08 |  Athletics
Coe uneasy with Chambers return
05 Feb 08 |  Athletics


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