Chambers sets sights on 'man to beat' Bolt

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Stepping off the track in the National Indoor Arena on Saturday, having at the age of 30 run the fastest 60m race of his life and installed himself at No2 in the world rankings and favourite for the European indoor crown in Turin next month, Dwain Chambers made a "drink" gesture to the steward shepherding him towards the waiting press pack. The official returned with some water in a clear plastic cup. "Sorry, ain't got a bottle," he said. The sprinter took it, but placed it on the ground without taking a sip. "I don't want to get myself into trouble," he quietly explained.

Six years on from his positive test for a chemical cocktail of banned substances, Chambers is careful about the fuel he sticks in his tank these days. "I have to be smart about the decisions that I make, because I'll be damned if I make the same mistake again," he reflected. The supreme irony, of course, is that such smartness has made the Londoner a faster speed merchant with a clean engine than he ever was with a tainted one. The 60m time he clocked in the semi-finals of the Birmingham Games, 6.52sec, (before winning the final in 6.54) equates to 9.85sec for the 100m outdoors. That happens to be 0.02sec quicker than the since-expunged European record equalling time Chambers ran in Paris in 2002, with the benefit of the designer steroid tetrahydrogestrinone – and 0.04sec faster than the time that earnt Olympic silver behind Usain Bolt's world record 9.69sec run in Beijing last August.

"I could have done this in the first place but I was impatient," Chambers said, pondering the irony. "I've taken a long time to grow up and mature and realise what ability I do have. I wish I realised it a long time ago. But you make mistakes in life. You learn from them. I want to let the past go. I just want to compete – and beat Bolt. That's all I care about."

Having lost his High Court fight to overturn the British Olympic Association bye-law excluding past doping offenders from selection for the Olympics, the Belgrave Bullet was denied the chance of a shot at the Lightning Bolt in Beijing. He will be free to do so, however, at the World Championships in Berlin in August. "That's my focus: beating Bolt," Chambers said. "He's the man to beat. I may not run 9.69sec but as long as I dip that line before him my job's done. He won't be doing any showboating with me on his tail."

Chambers has beaten Bolt before: back in the winter of 2005-06 when he went to Jamaica to prepare for his comeback after serving his two-year suspension. "I beat him in training a few times," the Belgrave Harrier said. "That's something I've got up my sleeve. But, then again, he's moved on since then. He's way up the ladder. I've got a lot of catching up to do, but I'm patient about it because I know every man has his day."

Chambers showed his in Birmingham, having been barred from the Aviva International in Glasgow, where Craig Pickering won the 60m in an impressive but not-so-scorching 6.57sec, and where Mo Farah clocked a brilliant new British indoor 3,000m record, 7min 40.99sec. Chambers is also barred from the Aviva Grand Prix in Birmingham on 21 February, which means he has to devour his competitive opportunities whenever he can get them.

"It's like a dog that don't get fed very often," he said. "When I get my little Pedigree Chum I'm shovelling it down. Yeah, I'm a man that's hungry."