Dwain Chambers: Clean pair of heels

Dwain Chambers is drug-free and faster than ever. He tells Simon Turnbull of his aim to challenge Usain Bolt

Dwain Chambers is not the first London character to head to Turin looking for gold. It was in the northern Italian city that Michael Caine, in the guise of Charlie Croker, masterminded the ambush of a crock of precious metal in The Italian Job. "I wasn't aware that it was set in Turin," Chambers confesses. "You learn something new every day."

Might the in-form sprinter learn to grab his Turin gold a little more decisively, though, than the British gang who were left hanging over a cliff with their loot? "I think so," Chambers says, looking ahead to the challenge of the 60 metres at the European Indoor Championships, which take place in the Oval Lingotto on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. "And it's not going to involve me stealing it. It's going to involve me working hard for it, running faster than everybody else."

There was a time, of course, when Chambers strove to pilfer gold from his rivals, often his British team-mates, while fuelled with THG and various other products of Victor Conte's Balco laboratory. He succeeded in doing so in the 100m at the outdoor European Championships in Munich in 2002, but was caught by the drug testers a year later and was obliged to hand back the one individual gold medal he has won in a senior international championship, together with the rest of his ill-gotten gains.

That bust was six years ago. It was in 2006 that Chambers made his comeback, after serving a two-year suspension. Now 30, he happens to be running quicker on natural talent than he ever was with a body pumped full of steroids. The Belgrave Harrier has been in the form of his life over 60m in this indoor season, blitzing to personal bests of 6.52sec at the Birmingham Games and 6.51sec at the UK Championships in Sheffield. It is an ironic state of affairs that leaves him clear favourite for the continental crown in Turin. The next fastest man on the European rankings is Simeon Williamson, his British team-mate and fellow Londoner, with 6.53sec.

Should Chambers succeed, it would not be the first medal he has won since his comeback. At the outdoor European Championships in Gothenburg in 2006, he ran the lead-off leg for the winning British 4 x 100m relay quartet – after which Darren Campbell pointedly refused to accompany him on a lap of honour. And in March last year, he took the 60m silver medal at the World Indoor Championships in Valencia. This time, though, if Chambers were to emerge victorious he would be the first reinstated doping offender to stand alone at the top of a medal rostrum wearing a Great Britain tracksuit.

And that, in all probability, would provoke a repeat of the kind of moral outrage that surrounded him last year – when he returned from a failed attempt to make it in American football to find UK Athletics, the domestic governing body of the sport, attempting (unsuccessfully, as it proved) to bar him from the British team for the World Indoor Championships. He then lost a High Court attempt to overturn the British Olympic Association bylaw which bans past doping offenders from Britain's Olympic team.

"I'm not going to get involved in all that," Chambers says, wearily. "I'm just going to go out to Turin and win, and just continue doing that and that only. I don't want to get involved in the politics no more. It just becomes tedious and messy. It becomes a war and I don't want that. There's enough craziness going on in the world already.

"It's crazy that I still have to deal with this kind of stuff. It's three years now since I finished my suspension and made my comeback. I'm just trying to turn things around and show that it can be done the right way. This is the best I've ever been running. I've taken a long time to grow up and mature and realise what ability I do have. I wish I'd realised it a long time ago, but you make mistakes in life. I made a mistake, a long time ago, and I've had to deal with it. I'd just like to close the chapter and move on."

Happily for Chambers, Charles van Commenee, the new head coach of UK Athletics, is of the same mind. "Dwain has served his sentence," the Dutchman said after watching him win in Sheffield three weeks ago. "I will treat him the same as any other athlete."

All Chambers asks is to be treated the same as any other athlete who has the blemish of a positive drug test on their curriculum vitae, although the BOA bylaw means he will never get the opportunity to crown his rehabilitation with an Olympic gold medal, as the Canadian 110m hurdler Mark McKoy did in Barcelona in 1992 (four years after fleeing Seoul in the wake of Ben Johnson's failed test and subsequently confessing to having himself been a steroid user) – and as the Brazilian long jumper Maurren Maggi did in Beijing last summer, with the minimum of fuss about her past indiscretion (she served a two-year suspension after testing positive for clostebol, an anabolic steroid, in 2003).

Chambers, who failed at the American football side Hamburg Sea Devils, continues to be portrayed as some kind of demonic creature of the sporting world, while Carl Myerscough slips into the British team, as the Blackpool shot-putter does again in Turin, with hardly a passing mention of the drugs test he failed 10 years ago. Myerscough happens to be white, which might help to explain why Chambers' autobiography, which is published next Monday, carries the title Race Against Me.

Another subject in the book is suicide, which Chambers confesses he considered while at his lowest point. "It was literally a flickering thought," he says. "When it came in, I processed it and got rid of it. I thought, 'I can't do that.' I was at the stage of becoming a father, so I wasn't prepared to be that selfish. I wasn't going to stoop that low."

Now a father of three, Chambers admits that, with his earning power as an athlete virtually hamstrung by the EuroMeetings bar on reinstated drug offenders, he needs the money from his book to fund him for at least another year. His hope is that gold in Turin might help to ease open a few doors towards some summer head-to-heads with a certain Usain Bolt.

Chambers' indoor 60m times suggest the north Londoner might have been the closest man to the Lightning Bolt, had he been in the Olympic 100m final in Beijing last summer. At the very least, he will get the chance to catch up with his one-time sparring partner on the track at the World Championships in Berlin in August. The pair trained together in the winter of 2005-06 when Chambers went to Jamaica to prepare for his comeback season. That, was before the Lightning Bolt became a world-record-breaking phenomenon.

"I've run against Usain on the training track, so I know what I'm up against," Chambers says. "That doesn't pressure me. I've had to stand in the Royal Courts of Justice and be told I can't go to the Olympic Games. That's more pressure than standing on the start line with the fastest man in the world.

"With what I've had to cope with over the past few years, nine seconds of pressure and concentration is something I can deal with. I'm a tough little cookie. I just want to get on the big stage and compete with the best guys in the world." After tackling the best in Europe in his particular Italian Job, that is.

Race Against Me by Dwain Chambers is published by Libros International, priced £18.99, on 9 March.

Racing certainty? Dwain's 2009 times

*Chambers tops the 60m European indoor rankings in 2009, clocking 6.51sec in his heat and final at the UK Championships in Sheffield last month.

Top three

6.51 Dwain Chambers (GB) Sheffield, 14 February

6.53 Simeon Williamson (GB) Birmingham, 21 February

6.55 Fabio Cerutti (Italy)

Turin, 22 February

*Chambers also stands joint top of the world rankings, with the American sprinters Michael Rodgers, Jacoby Ford and Mark Jelks.

*Chambers' best 60m indoor time prior to his drugs suspension in 2003 was 6.55, which he recorded in 2000. Last year he improved his personal best to 6.54 when finishing joint second at the World Indoor Championships in Valencia.

*His target in Turin, as well as the title, is Jason Gardener's 10-year-old British record time: 6.46. Chambers is unbeaten in the six 60m races he has contested in 2009.

Return of the outlaws

By Josh Williams

As Chambers continues his comeback, here are other sportsmen who returned from drugs bans to enjoy varying success in their sport.


The Australian legend was banned from cricket for one year after testing positive for the diuretic Moduretic in 2003. The leg-spinner made a successful return to the game following his ban, playing a crucial role as Australia regained the Ashes with a whitewash in 2006-07.


Tunisian swimmer who admitted to taking Adderall, an amphetamine on the banned

substances list. In 2006 he was suspended from swimming competition for 18 months. The ban expired prior to last year's Beijing Olympics, where Mellouli took gold in the 1500m freestyle.


Former Manchester United defender who was found to have banned steroid nandrolone in his system in 2001. The Dutchman was banned for an initial five months, reduced to four on appeal. After returning to the sport, Stam lifted the Italian Cup with Lazio and KNVB Cup with Ajax.

Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier leaguePlus updates from Everton vs Palace
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam