Athletics: Chambers banned as Moorcroft urges hard line

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The Independent Online

Dwain Chambers was last night confirmed as being suspended from competition pending an independent hearing after a second test by the International Olympic Committee's laboratory in Los Angeles confirmed the urine sample he gave on August 1 as being positive for the banned designer steroid tetrahydrogestrinone (THG).

The announcement by UK Athletics concerning the European 100 metres champion's B test coincided with a separate plea from the body's chief executive, Dave Moorcroft, for more stringent measures to be taken in the battle against doping. They included increasing serious doping bans from two to four years, forcing guilty athletes to repay Lottery funding and seeking to target the figures encouraging or supporting athletes in illegal activity.

Chambers now has 28 days to request a hearing, although Moorcroft said that the unusual nature of the case meant that there could be a lengthy delay before the issue was resolved.

"We would like it to be sooner rather than later," Moorcroft said. "We would reckon in normal circumstances that a hearing would happen within three months. But this isn't normal circumstance. We know that already because we have only just reached this point from a test taken on August 1."

The case could be held up by legal manoeuvring on a number of grounds, Moorcroft believes, including the fact that the case involves a newly discovered substance, and also that Chambers' case may be bound up with information elicited by the grand jury hearing taking place in San Francisco into the workings of the laboratory said to be at the centre of this latest doping scandal.

If found guilty, Chambers would lose any prize-money won after his positive test which would include the $100,000 (£62,500) he picked up at the Moscow Challenge following the World Championships. He and his team-mates also stand to lose the 4x100m relay silver medals they won in Paris.

Moorcroft - who stressed that he was not pre-empting Chambers' case with any of his comments - sent a letter yesterday to the president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, Lamine Diack, expressing "total support" for the idea that minimum bans for serious doping offences should be returned from two to four years.

Pointing out that British athletics officials had argued against the ban being reduced from four years in 1995, the former world 5,000m record holder added: "A two-year ban is not enough. It's a hiccup in an athlete's career, whereas four years is a substantial period."

The original reduction was triggered by fears, particularly from the German athletics federation, that a four-year ban was too vulnerable to being challenged in the courts by athletes claiming restraint of trade. But Moorcroft is confident that such a punishment would be "legally sustainable" in Britain.

Moorcroft also claimed that UK Athletics was investigating ways to penalise athletes found guilty of doping by requiring them to pay back National Lottery funding they had received, and he repeated his wish to target the people behind athletes found guilty.

"I have long felt that behind almost every positive case there are others responsible besides the athlete, whether they are managers, coaches or nutritionists, and they need to feel the justice of the sport," Moorcroft said. "There is often a kind of web of deceit involved, but it's extremely difficult to prove responsibility. It is probably something the World Anti-Doping Agency needs to be looking at very carefully."