Athletics: Rogge offers Chambers drugs 'plea bargain'

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The Independent Online

Dwain Chambers has been urged by the president of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, to disclose information about his doping case in exchange for a reduction of his punishment if he is eventually found guilty.

Speaking in Athens yesterday, Rogge commented: "We would hope that Dwain Chambers would be wise enough to come forward to give information and in reward he would get a reduction of his penalty. That's a plea bargain that has been offered."

Rogge's comments followed reports that Chambers, suspended earlier this month after an out-of-competition positive for the newly discovered steroid tetrahydrogestrinone (THG) on 1 August was confirmed by the results of his "B" test, was one of the two athletes whose samples showed up traces of the same drug following the re-testing of all cases dealt with during this summer's World Championships. The other athlete is said to be the US shot putter Kevin Toth.

Neither the International Association of Athletics Federations nor UK Athletics would confirm the report. There was no comment either from Chambers's lawyer, Graham Shear, or his management agency, Stellar.

The European 100 metres champion is awaiting a hearing at which he will be able to put his case. Chambers has consistently denied knowingly taking a banned substance or in any way trying to cheat.

Under the IAAF's "strict liability" rules, an athlete found guilty of doping receives a mandatory, minimum two-year ban from competition.

However, the IAAF does have a rule allowing reduced sanctions for athletes offering "substantial assistance" in a doping inquiry.

"There is a provision in the rules which allows sanctions to be reduced in exceptional circumstances," the source said. "If we can stop doping by getting coaches or suppliers because of information received from athletes, we will consider reducing sanctions. But the information we receive must be something special," an IAAF spokesman said.

Chambers could face a ban longer than two years from UK Athletics, which has the option to impose larger penalties in cases where exceptional circumstances are involved that are judged to have brought the sport into disrepute. The sprinter also faces a life ban from the Olympics under a separate ruling maintained by the British Olympic Association.

Rogge played down fears that the size of the current drug scandal, which centres on the Balco laboratory in San Francisco, could seriously damage international competitions. "All indications today are that THG is of course a scandal... but that THG is limited only to athletes who were in contact with this California lab," he said. "This is not a widespread problem." Most athletes who have been linked to THG were in touch with the Balco laboratory which is currently under investigation by a US grand jury.

Several leading track athletes and baseball players, among them the triple Olympic sprint champion Marion Jones and her partner Tim Montgomery, the 100m world record holder, have already testified.

The discovery of the drug took officials by surprise as they became aware of it only after a high-profile coach sent a syringe of THG to the United States Anti-Doping Agency, who have now developed a test for the previously undetectable drug.

"Designer drugs are always going to be a local issue, never a widespread general issue," Rogge said. Rogge said testing during the Athens Games would increase by 25 per cent compared to previous Games and would include THG.