Dwain Chambers could be going for gold in 2012 after all. Just when he thought he would be waking up today without any reason to count down the two years to the summer of 2012, the co-favourite for the 100m title in the European Championships, which start here in Barcelona this morning, discovered that he will have a major championship target to aim for the year after next.
Sadly for the north Londoner, it won't be the Olympic Games, which open in his home town two years today. He remains barred from the Games because of the British Olympic Association by-law precluding past doping offenders from selection for the British team. Only yesterday, as he finalised his preparations for tonight's 100m heats, did Chambers learn that there will be European Championships staged in 2012 – although the decision to hold the continental contest biennially, instead of once every four years was actually taken last year. "I've just heard," he said. "I want to get these championships out of the way first and then we'll see what the future holds."
If the Belgrave Harrier sounded less than enamoured with the prospect of chasing gold in Helsinki, rather than London, it was hardly surprising. As consolation prizes go, it promises to be the track and field equivalent of the Crackerjack Pencil. With a home Olympics for the rest of the team to aim at in 2012, and Olympic trials, too, the British squad in the Finnish capital will be of the shadow variety. As Charles van Commenee, the head coach of UK Athletics, put it yesterday: "If we have a European Champs in between the trials and the Olympics, and I select athletes in the track events for the Euros, they will be dead and buried before the Olympic Games start."
Happily for Chambers, the ill feeling that soured his appearance in the last European Championships would now seem to be dead and buried. That was in Gothenburg in 2006, when he helped the British 4x100m relay quartet to victory on the final day – and found himself snubbed by Darren Campbell on the lap of honour. His disgruntled team-mate headed instead for the press box to voice his disapproval at the selection of a former drugs taker.
"We actually spoke at New Year," Chambers said. "I know I was wrong in things I'd done and said. And he didn't conduct himself correctly in 2006. We've both been gentlemen about it and shaken hands and said, 'Let the past be the past'."
For Chambers, the past also includes the 100m gold medal he won at the 2002 European Championships in Munich, before he was disqualified in retrospect after failing a drugs test in 2003. "That's gone," he said. "I had to give the medal back. I put it in a package and sent it. It wasn't a comfortable feeling, but I knew that what I was doing in 2002 was wrong and that sending the medal back was the punishment for it."