Athletics: Chambers ban adds to pressure on US

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The Independent Online

Dwain Chambers' two-year ban by UK Athletics in what was seen as a test case for the recently discovered steroid THG (tetrahydrogestrinone) has prompted the world's leading anti-doping figure, Dick Pound, to call on authorities in the United States to act with equal vigour.

The 25-year-old Londoner was the first of five athletes who have tested positive for the so-called "designer steroid", with the other four being US athletes ­ the national shot put champion, Kevin Toth, the hammer thrower John McEwen, the American women's hammer champion, Melissa Price, and the middle-distance runner Regina Jacobs. Their cases will be considered by the US Anti-Doping Agency, which provided one of the witnesses for UKA in the Chambers case last week.

USA Track & Field have been repeatedly accused in recent years of failing to punish athletes who tested positive, but Pound, the president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, believes that US officials will now want to show they have no tolerance for doping offenders.

"The United States are determined to get out from under the suggestion that they are not strong on doping," Pound said. "The science is right, the results are clear and there are positive cases."

The International Association of Athletics Federations last week sent a 1999 doping case involving the world 400 metres champion, Jerome Young, to arbitration. Young won a gold medal as a member of the US 4x400m relay team at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Pound said some national athletics federations were seen as dragging their feet on issues of doping and that now the time to act. "Is this [drug] something we take inadvertently?" he said. "There needs to be punishment for the offenders."

Chambers, whose ban was activated from the time of his first suspension on 7 November last year and who also faces a lifetime Olympic ban under the ruling of the British Olympic Association, is still considering whether to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne. He had 60 days to make up his mind.

The European 100m champion stands to lose about £400,000 a year, including a £100,000-a-year deal with adidas and annual endorsements totalling more than £200,000.

Chambers has been offered a possible entry to American Football through an invitation to attend an NFL training camp, but could decide either to fight on with what has already been a costly case, or remain in training as an athlete until he is 27. No athlete has ever returned to their previous levels of performance followinga doping ban.