British athletics is facing something of a false start to the top-class indoor season, with Dwain Chambers – the country's leading hope for gold at the European Indoor Championships in Turin in March – barred from running for the Great Britain team in the Aviva International at Glasgow's Kelvin Hall on Saturday 31 January and poised to steal the spotlight away from the televised showpiece meeting by competing in a minor event for club runners in Birmingham on the same afternoon.
Although UK Athletics officials have said in recent weeks that Chambers would be "welcome" in the national squad for the indoor season, the Glasgow event, while incorporating an international match involving a British team, is part of the EuroMeetings group of events, which precludes athletes who have served two-year doping suspensions.
Since serving his 24-month suspension for taking a cocktail of banned substances, Chambers has run for Britain at the European Cup and European Championships in 2006 and at the World Indoor Champion-ships in March last year. When the international season opens in Glasgow, though, he will have to compete instead at the Birmingham Games, an open event for club runners, at the National Indoor Arena – taking most of the media attention with him and maybe running a faster 60m time.
"If I can't run in Glasgow then I will run in Birmingham," Chambers said. "I don't want to take the attention away from Glasgow. I just want to race and get some good times under my belt before heading to Turin."
The European Indoor Championships in Turin open on 6 March, four days after the publication of Chambers' autobiography Race Against Me, in which he tells the inside story of his involvement in the Balco drugs scandal. One way or another, the controversial figure of the 30-year-old Londoner is sure to dominate the indoor season.