Athletics: Chambers made to wait for decision on drug test

Disciplinary panel expected to deliver verdict next week on European 100m champion's THG case
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The Independent Online

Dwain Chambers' future as an athlete hung in the balance last night as the independent panel convened to hear his disciplinary case deferred their judgement until next week.

The 25-year-old European 100m champion spent just under eight hours yesterday at the London offices of solicitors Farrer & Co before avoiding the media scrum by slipping away in a taxi after leaving through a back entrance.

Chambers will hear of his fate following his positive test for the so-called "designer" steroid tetrahydrogestrinone (THG) when the three-person panel convened by UK Athletics offers its written judgement to the national federation.

A spokeswoman for UK Athletics said that the option to deliver an immediate oral verdict on Chambers, who faces a two-year ban and a lifetime exclusion from the Olympics if found guilty, had been rejected by the panel according to its chairman, Charles Flint QC.

"They indicated not," the spokeswoman said. "The committee will consider its verdict and deliver a written judgement to us by the middle of next week." The spokeswoman confirmed that no more evidence remained to be heard at the end of proceedings in which UK Athletics, represented by David Pannick QC, called upon four scientific experts to speak on their behalf. They were Professor Vivien James and Professor Robert Smith, Larry Bowers, a senior member of the US Anti-Doping Agency, and Professor Don Catlin, director of the Los Angeles laboratory that developed a test for THG after receiving a sample of the previously undetectable substance anonymously last June.

Chambers is one of five athletes who has tested positive for THG - the four others are American - and his appearance represents a test case that will be carefully evaluated on either side of the Atlantic.

Chambers' QC, Michael Beloff, who represented British downhill skier Alain Baxter in his unsuccessful attempt to retain his Olympic silver medal after testing positive for a banned stimulant at the 2002 Winter Games, left the offices at Lincoln's Inn Fields without comment, as did Catlin.

But Chambers' solicitor, Graham Shear, commented: "We have presented a thorough and vigorous defence and we will await a hearing next week."

Chambers, who was suspended on 7 November last year after a second portion of the sample taken from him in an out-of-competition test on 1 August confirmed the findings of the first, arrived at the Georgian offices at 9.01am. Wearing a black duffel coat and dark clothing, he appeared relaxed.

The evidence of the UKA witnesses took just under four hours. The evidence offered by Chambers' representatives was believed to have taken little more than three-quarters of an hour, after which both sides were given the opportunity to sum up their case. The panel may spend some of today finalising their thoughts.

Chambers' case is believed to have centred on questioning whether THG constituted a banned substance at the time he was tested and whether sufficient scientific corroboration was undergone on the results of Catlin's work.

The delay will mean at least a postponement of his plans to fly to Tampa, Florida on Monday to spend four days training at an NFL camp with a view to furthering a possible career in American Football.

As he departed the scene, Chambers, whose 2003 season ended in disappointment as he missed out on a medal at the World Championships in Paris, gave a smile and a wave. Whether he will be smiling next week is a question that will ultimately depend upon how effectively his counsel has managed to get around the law of "strict liability" that underpins world anti-doping activity whereby athletes are deemed responsible for substances found in their bodies, regardless of how they got there or whether they were aware of them.

UKA had no influence over the timing of the panel's judgement, but the delay will have at least one merit in that there will be no major distraction from tonight's Norwich Union Grand Prix in Birmingham.

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