Shortly after noon today in the Palau Velodromo Luis Puig, Dwain Chambers will resume his international athletics career in the 60m heats at the 12th World Indoor Championships. His stated ambition is to get his country a medal – but should he achieve that goal it will be a matter for toleration, rather than celebration, within the higher echelons of UK Athletics.
Having sought to block Chambers – who is making a second comeback to the sport after serving a two-year doping ban – from the trials, the domestic federation had to back down when the 29-year-old sprinter's legal right to compete was vouchsafed by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
In the wake of Chambers's trials victory, Niels de Vos, the UKA chief executive, maintained that he would not celebrate were the former European 100m champion to win here. His sentiments have been echoed by the president of the Spanish Athletics Federation, Jose Maria Odriozola, who has said he does not welcome Chambers's involvement and fears crowd protests may cause "a serious incident".
Chambers received support here yesterday, however, from the president of the IAAF, Lamine Diack, who reiterated that the Briton was free to run having served his ban. Chambers, meanwhile, was treading carefully before what will be his first race since the trials on 9 February – the consequence of this season's assertion by meeting promoters in Europe that those who have returned from doping bans will not be invited.
"I've rested and got myself in the right frame of mind," said Chambers on the eve of his first World Indoor Championships. "I just want to get the first round out of the way and go from there. Then I'll know what I'm facing. I can't do more than that." He added that he had been supported by UKA performance director Dave Collins and his coaching staff, but admitted that communications with De Vos and other officials had been conducted through his lawyers, who are considering whether to mount a legal challenge to his lifetime Olympic ban by the British Olympic Association. "I've just obviously got to keep myself out of it and do things the right way," Chambers added.
At least one of his main rivals today will be sanguine about running against him. Michael Rodgers, who will mount the US challenge in the absence of the current champion Leonard Scott, maintained yesterday that he neither feared Chambers nor queried his right to run. "He served his time," Rodgers said. Rodgers will present substantial opposition for the track-rusty Briton, having run 6.54sec last month, 0.02sec faster than Chambers's winning trials time. Italy's Simone Collio, with a season's best of 6.55sec, should also challenge for a medal, while the favourite for gold remains Nigeria's Olusoji Fasuba, who ran 6.51sec last month on the same Valencia track.
But Chambers demonstrated at the trials just what he could do with a head of steam, and his frustrations of the last month will have done nothing to diminish his determination.
That said, Britain's best hope of gold on the opening day rests with Olympic bronze medal heptathlete Kelly Sotherton, who will contest the one-day pentathlon against a field that lacks the defending champion Carolina Kluft, who has withdrawn from the championships with injury.
Her main rival will be Ukrainian Lyudmila Blonska – another athlete back after a drugs ban – whom she criticised last summer after she had beaten her to the world heptathlon silver medal. Elsewhere, Mozambique's former Olympic champion Maria Mutola, in her last indoor competition, will seek a record eighth gold medal in the 800m, while the men's 60m hurdles, where Britain's Allan Scott has an outside medal chance, could see Colin Jackson's 14-year-old world record of 7.30sec challenged as China's Olympic champion Liu Xiang faces Cuba's Dayron Robles.
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