Chambers tries to ignore Olympic talk as he storms heat

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The Independent Online

If 2012 fever was sweeping through the elite competitors on the opening night of the Aviva UK Trials and Championships here in Birmingham last night, the winner of heat two of the men's 100m could be excused for feeling immune.

For Dwain Chambers, the big target next year is not the global gathering being staged near his north London home but the Crackerjack Pencil affair of the European Championships in Helsinki. As things stand, that is.

At the Diamond League meeting in Stockholm last night, the American 400m runner LaShawn Merritt was returning to action after serving the 21-month sentence he was given for testing positive for ingesting anabolic steroids from a male-enhancement product, EtenZe. In two weeks' time the Court of Arbitration for Sport will consider a request from the United States Olympic Committee to give "a definitive ruling" on the validity of the International Olympic Committee rule that bans returning drug offenders from the Olympic Games which follows the end of their suspension.

If Rule 45 of the Olympic Charter were to be revoked, Merritt would be free to defend his Olympic crown in London – and pressure would fall upon the British Olympic Association to reconsider the byelaw they have in place which precludes drug offenders from Olympic selection for life.

Not that Chambers is contemplating a repeat of the failed legal challenge he made in the High Court before the Beijing Olympics in 2008. "I'm just concentrating on the opportunities that I have available to me," the 32-year-old Belgrave Harrier said, after cantering to a heat win in 10.46sec. "I just want to make sure I qualify for the team for the World Championships next month."

With next year in mind, though, surely it must be difficult for the Londoner training every day at the Lee Valley High Performance Centre, alongside athletes who are focused on the big event in 2012? "Yeah, I'm constantly reminded," Chambers said with a sigh. "I switch on the TV and I see it. I read the paper and I see it. But, you know, there's nothing I can do about it. All I can do is concentrate on the races that I have, and hopefully still remain No 1 in Britain."

Chambers has won the national 100m title on five occasions, although his 2003 success was retrospectively annulled following his drugs cock-up: taking a cocktail of illicit products from Victor Conte's Balco drugs factory. As for Merritt, he has a world title to defend in Daegu next month.

Chambers might still be considered persona non grata by directors of the EuroMeetings group of events but Merritt stepped straight back from his ban into a top-notch Diamond League fixture last night. "He was not banned for two years," Rajne Soderberg, director of the Stockholm meeting and head of EuroMeetings, said. "He did not put the sport into real disrepute.

Merritt only showed signs of rust in the home straight, clocking an impressive 44.74sec as runner-up to Jermaine Gonzales, of Jamaica. "I wanted to knock some cobwebs off," he said. "I can't complain with 44.7 in my first race. I needed to get one out." Asked about the IOC rule and the prospect of defending his Olympic crown in London, the American said: "I'm just leaving it all up to God to figure it out. My focus is on the World Championships."

Usain Bolt is also focused on Daegu, where he will be defending his 100m and 200m titles. Competing at 200m in Stockholm last night, the Jamaican maintained his unbeaten record this year, prevailing in 20.03sec.