Athletics: One step at a time for repentant Chambers

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The Cuidad de Malaga athletics stadium was a work in progress yesterday with the cranes still in place as the workmen toiled to get the place up and running in time for the opening night of the two-day European Cup meeting this evening.

On the pristine track, Dwain Chambers was also a man in a hurry, pushing himself through his paces in training. He does, after all, have a career to rebuild, and a professional reputation to restore.

Two weeks ago in Gateshead, the Londoner made an impressive return to competition, clocking 10.07sec in the wake of Asafa Powell's world record-equalling 9.77sec 100 metres run. Tonight Chambers pulls on a Great Britain vest for the first time since he tested positive for the steroid tetrahydrogestrinone (THG) in August 2003. The chastened speed merchant is anxious to make a clean break in every respect, having served a two-year ban, and only this week losing his European title and joint British record for admitting that he also used THG in 2002.

Facing the press for the first time since his downfall, Chambers bared his soul when he returned from training to the British team hotel. "I needed to wipe the slate clean," he said, referring to the voluntary admission which has also cost him the money that he earned in 2002 and the European Cup win he secured for Britain as team captain that summer. "I just felt that it was the best possible avenue I could have gone through as I was coming back.

"I've grown up in the last two and a half years. I've become a father. My son, Skye, is nine months now. I've kept all of the press cuttings about me because I want him to see and understand what happened to me. I also want to show the younger athletes that the low road is not the road you want to go down. I'm a prime example of what not to do. I've used this opportunity to refocus my life. I had the world at my feet and now I'm back to square one. It's humbled me hugely. I've come back to the sport fresher and more motivated, not just money-orientated and looking for the glitz and the glamour, as I was before.

"I'm blessed with the opportunity to come back and I'm grateful for that. It's taken this experience to realise what talent I do have."

Ironically, with the exception of the 9.87sec he clocked to equal Linford Christie's British record in Paris in 2002, Chambers was a consistently quicker athlete before he moved to San Francisco that year and became entangled in the drugs net spun by Victor Conte and the Bay Area Lab Co-operative. "I didn't get any better," he reflected. "When I looked back and studied what THG was, it also scared me what I put myself through physically."

As he travelled out to southern Spain, Chambers' prime concern was the reception he might endure from the team-mates he let down. Speaking on their behalf, the 400m hurdler Natasha Danvers said: "Aside from getting a whipping, what more can the guy do? Nobody's thinking he shouldn't be in the team. He's still a funny, sweet guy."