Powell says Chambers' European ban is 'harsh'

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While Asafa Powell and Christophe Lemaitre were here in the sunshine of the Italian capital yesterday getting ready for a shot at the comeback kid Usain Bolt in the Golden Gala IAAF Diamond League meeting in the Stadio Olimpico tonight, Dwain Chambers was in Brazil preparing for an outing on the second-class track circuit.

The British sprinter races against the clock in Rio de Janeiro in the early hours tonight rather than against Bolt in Rome because the directors of Europe's showpiece meetings have a policy barring athletes who have served two-year drug suspensions.

Still, when an exception to the voluntary code of the Euro Meetings group came to light yesterday, Chambers found Powell, the former 100m world record holder, and Lemaitre, the European 100m and 200m champion, backing his case for a return.

Steve Mullings, who leads the world rankings at 100m with a time of 9.89sec, has been named as one of Bolt's opponents in the 100m at the Golden Spike, a Euro Meetings event, in the Czech Republic next Tuesday. In 2004, he tested positive for excessive levels of testosterone and was banned for two years by the International Association of Athletics Federations.

Chambers, who clocked 10.01sec in Sao Paulo last weekend, tested positive for a cocktail of outlawed substances in 2003 and was also banned for two years. After serving his suspension, he ran in a Euro Meetings production in 2006, the British Grand Prix, but then found himself barred from the continent's premier one-day events two years later.

Powell, a training partner of Mullings, told The Independent: "I think from day one Dwain's thing was a bit too harsh – to come back and not be able to compete in the European meets. I was saying, 'What's the sense of that?'

"Dwain was a popular person at the time. He had been on the European circuit competing for years. Steve was in college and no one really knew who he was. There wasn't a big story about it. I think the meet directors in Europe took Dwain's case a bit more seriously because he was competing in their meets. I think they took it very hard that he wasn't competing fairly."

Lemaitre, the French sprinter who beat Chambers to the 100m title at the European Championships in Barcelona last summer, said that he would be happy to see the 32-year-old Londoner competing on the Euro Meetings circuit. "Anyone who has been found guilty of doping made a mistake and they paid a price with their suspension," he said. "If they have changed their behaviour and have good intentions, then I have no problem running against them."

The unwritten Euro Meetings rule has been flouted before. Indeed, Mullings raced in the Golden Gala here in 2009 and also in the Weltkasse in Zurich that summer. Maurren Maggi, the Olympic long jump champion from Brazil, and Vania Stambolova, the Bulgarian who won the European 400m title in 2006, have also been allowed to compete in Euro Meetings events. Both have served two-year drugs bans.

At the time Laurent Boquillet, director of the Paris event, pledged to break with his Euro Meetings colleagues and invite Chambers to his meeting this year. "Everything goes on Dwain because he wrote a book and was honest about what he did," Boquillet said. "The IAAF has a rule which says two years' suspension. Why add a different penalty? Why punish one man?"