Athletics: Chambers camp hits back at Campbell

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The Independent Online

Darren Campbell confirmed yesterday that the reason for his refusal to join a lap of honour after helping Britain win sprint relay gold at the European Championships was his objection to the presence in the team of Dwain Chambers.

But the 32-year-old sprinter, who has hinted strongly that he is about to retire, received strong criticism of his stance from Chambers' former manager John Regis.

Chambers returned this season after a two-year doping ban and his infringements caused Britain to lose the sprint relay gold they won at the 2002 Europeans and the silver from the 2003 World Championships.

Chambers, who began training in the United States after the 2001 World Championships, tested positive for THG, the designer steroid supplied to him and others by the Balco laboratory in San Francisco.

"I feel the fact that I've lost two medals because of what occurred with Dwain meant it wasn't appropriate to celebrate,'' said Campbell, who added that he had raised his objection to UK Athletics officials before the relay began.

"I made my feelings clear to the officials. I stood by Dwain when he returned by not feeling he was solely accountable. I just felt that, in return, he should really expose the people who took him over there so we can protect another youngster from getting into that situation.''

Chambers' manager at the time he went to the United States was Regis, who still holds the British 200 metres record, and he spoke out yesterday. "I'm disappointed in Darren,'' Regis told BBC Radio Five Live. "He should have aired his concern in private and not in public. If he felt so strongly about the situation with Dwain, then he had a chance of standing aside and letting someone else take his place. Darren doesn't pick the team. Team officials make that decision.

"Darren has been a great ambassador for British athletics and he is one of the best athletes this country has seen, but I think he's got it wrong and his actions have taken away the sheen of the team winning gold.

"For Darren to say that Dwain is one of the reasons he isn't competing opens a new can of worms. You can't say no to Dwain if your own coach has failed a drugs test.'' Regis was referring to Campbell's coach, Linford Christie, who tested positive for nandrolone in 1999 at the age of 37.

Regis and Christie are old rivals, on and off the track; Chambers left Christie's management company, Nuff Respect, in 2001 for Stellar Management, which had just been set up by Regis.

Campbell is due to join the British team preparing for the World Junior Championships in Beijing, where he will carry out duties as a UK Athletics ambassador, effectively mentoring.

Christie is back in England, where he is due to take up a new, paid, two-year role as a UK Athletics mentor to competitors - an appointment that was questioned over the weekend by Paula Radcliffe.

The UK Athletics performance director, Dave Collins, who appointed Christie to the position, has also fielded criticism over his decision to send Britain's world youth 100m and 200m champion, Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, to train for 10 days earlier this year with Trevor Graham's group, in North Carolina. Graham's athlete, Justin Gatlin, the world and Olympic 100m champion, is facing a life ban for doping and Graham recently became the subject of an investigation by the International Association of Athletics Federations.

There were more palatable matters for Collins to consider, however, after five medals on the final day here raised Britain's total to 11, which was one more than the optimistic target Collins set beforehand. Although this still represents by far the worst performance by a British team at these Championships in the last 20 years, Collins welcomed the commitment shown by a number of his team.

"We cannot be satisfied with this, but it is a satisfactory first step and it is nice to exceed our target," he said. "The guys competed and showed hunger and a willingness to move on." With athletes like Rebecca Lyne, Rhys Williams, Greg Rutherford and Mohammed Farah, all under 25, Collins and UK Athletics have reason for genuine hope.

A plastic bag containing what appeared to be materials used for doping has been found by police close to the Ullevi Stadium, where the European Championships concluded on Sunday. Swedish police said: "It contained what we believe is doping equipment, syringes and catheters. Another bag was found later which had equipment for blood transfusions."