By Martin Gillingham - 18 March 2009

Until quite recently, UK Athletics employed a convicted British drugs cheat on not one but two salaries. A fortnight ago, they picked another for the British team at the European indoor championships, his umpteenth in a red, white and blue vest, since being banned for taking drugs.

Unlike Dwain Chambers, his right to return to the sport and represent his country has never been challenged. In fact, UKA once supported Carl Myerscough's bid to have his British Olympic Association ban lifted in the hope they would be able him to pick him for the 2004 Olympic Games.

The same weekend in Turin as Myerscough fluffed qualification in the shot, Chambers sprinted to golden 60-metre glory breaking the European indoor record and becoming the third fastest man ever at the distance. Chambers had been vilified on his way to Turin, while he was there, and has been ever since he got back.

It is a witch hunt that has become a farce.

Between other less credible and defamatory claims, Chambers, who is not the most articulate of men, says the aristocracy of British athletics are singling him out for special treatment. He says UKA are guilty of hypocrisy. And do you know what? He's right.

Now, before you start getting the wrong impression, I'm no natural Chambers ally. It's just that having spent two years wincing at the alarming inconsistencies in the way UKA has handled its doping miscreants, my human side has moved me to have sympathy with him.

If I had my way, it would be one strike and you're out for life or, at the very least, a four-year suspension for the first drugs offence.

Chambers is an odious fellow. And when he sped across the finish line way ahead of his rivals in Turin it was difficult not to reflect on one of Dwain's preachings that it is almost impossible to reach the top in athletics without taking drugs.

The statement is, of course, hopelessly simplistic. It is also wrong. I'm confident that in my years of competing in, and observing athletics there have been many brilliant and fair champions. Problem is, I suspect there have been a significant number of illegitimate ones too.

Chambers says he's now clean. Should we pause for thought before believing him? Thousands of pounds in the red; a reputation that can't sink any lower; limited alternative career options; a sport that has disowned him – for someone with a crooked bend there's no great incentive for him to go straight is there?

It has also been revealed in the last week that Chambers has continued to mix with the two key men who once guided him down the path of self-destruction, the drugs baron Victor Conte and the disgraced coach Remi Korchemny.

Renewing acquaintances with those two lags hardly suggests Chambers is a man who has turned his back on his past. But then with all in UKA, who a couple of years ago were embracing Chambers and ushering him back to the fold like a long lost son, now disowning him, is it any wonder he's back
exchanging emails with those two undesirables?

Shuffling uneasily in their seats in Turin would have been a host of British athletics officials whose collective creation Dwain is. He's like Frankenstein's monster; for years UKA bigged him up while those with an analytical mind muffled into our mochachinos, suspicious of the bulging biceps, tree trunk thighs and occasional, unexplained cramp attacks on the track.

UKA was part of the machinery that found him, fostered him, funded him and peddled the myth that he was the real deal.

altDwain is as much a figure of fun as he is a brilliant runner. His failed foray into rugby league and his tilt at gridiron have exposed his gift for self-parody.

His first instinct is to blame others before himself and the interviews given in recent weeks by this self-confessed chemical compound on legs have been laced with contradictions and unsubstantiated allegations. He is a true toxymoron.

But where Chambers should be listened to is with his altogether more indiscriminate claims of hypocrisy and double standards within athletics. Dozens of athletes get caught taking drugs but very rarely are the coaches, suits and suppliers associated with the athlete's guilt brought to book with them. Years on, in some cases, such individuals continue to be involved in the sport, their characters and reputations unblemished.

It is even possible the IAAF will find that Chambers' book, which went on sale last week, has brought the sport into disrepute - a process that could set in motion a chain of events leading to his permanent expulsion from the sport.

It is yet further evidence that Chambers is spot on when he says he is being singled out for special treatment.

Athletics remains a sport with a cupboard crammed with skeletons, secrets to hide and an image problem. And that, perhaps above all else, is why there is still so much unease about having Chambers around.


Martin Gillingham represented Great Britain in the 1984 Olympic Games and 1987 World Championships at the 400 metres hurdles. Since retiring from the track he spent 12 years in South Africa where he was a radio talk show presenter and writer for a Sunday newspaper. He returned to the UK in 2003 and can now be heard commentating on athletics for Eurosport as well as rugby for Sky Sports, ITV and Setanta.



I commend Dwain for his efforts to ammend his mistakes. He should
be praised for this alone and lessons to learn from for our young
people but instead this is a blame culture and the media is keen
to idolised those celebraties that choose to do harmful drugs and
take pleasure in being photographed for being intoxicated.
By Lady T

19 March 2009 at 09:46am

As far as I'm concerned, Chambers served his ban and has been
setting about doing things right. I think he has learnt his
lesson and I hope to see him do well in the future- even if some
in Athletics won't give him a 2nd chance.
By Forgiving man

19 March 2009 at 09:47am

I think that Mr. Chambers should just cool himself and stop
aiming at Bolt and run his own race. Mr. Chambers, doping will
make anyone do it, but naturally, it's not that easy or maybe
next to impossible.
The J'can athletes are first class, and Bolt is just a little
above the norm. Another 100 yrs, before you see another like
Usain Bolt, so Mr. Chambers, you will not be there.
By Patrick, Jamaica

19 March 2009 at 09:48am

It is time to stop these columns about stopping the witch-hunt
against Chambers
By Fed up with Dwain

19 March 2009 at 11:20am

I wonder if Martin would have felt the same about Dwain if he had
been someone like Jason Gardener, whose whole career was
overshadowed by drugs cheats, conning him out of not only
appearances in major championships but also potentially several
thousands pounds in prize and sponsorship money.
By Nigel Jones Bristol

19 March 2009 at 13:22pm

I'm a big fan of Martin. He's the best commentator on TV by a
mile. I just wondered, Martin, how many athletes you competed
against you suspected of being on drugs? It would make a
fascinating blog. Jayne x
By Jayne Lee

19 March 2009 at 15:56pm

What utter rubbish. He's a cheat. We should never foget that.
By Annoyed of London

19 March 2009 at 16:14pm

Everybody makes mistakes, but some people won’t let Dwain forget
his. What’s more important is that he’s an amazing athlete who
worked really hard to get where he is, now.
By Sherrelle Gordon, Erdington

19 March 2009 at 18:07pm

Does Martin Gillingham really believe this rubbish he's writing?
Chambers is a cheat and a liar.
By Ed Moses fan, New York

19 March 2009 at 18:49pm

If sport is not about inclusivity, forgiveness and paricipation
then should it be seen as purely about winning, or even simply as

If that is the case then perhaps all is lost.

The message given to our youth in the handling of Dwain's
situation may be doing untold damage at a time when we should be
extolling the health related virtues of participating in sport.

I applaud Martin for his blog because not only is it a reasoned
arguement but it displays, as we all should, an abhorrance of
those who chose to cheat. It is certainly not rubbish.

Was Dwaine any worse than the player that "dives" in the penalty
box and costs a team victory? The driver that deliberately runs
another off the road. The tackler that consistantly attempts to
cause harm?

He broke the rules, he was caught and punished and it should be
time to move on. It would have been the case for most found
guilty of cheating and punished but for those who potentially
self harm by using performance enhancing drugs it seems they are
to be classed differently.

His stance now and his performances could have been utilised to
promote drug free sport, unfortunately we are left raking over
the same old arguements and not moving the debate forwards.

At a time when athletes are being asked to give details of their
"whenabouts whereabouts", be guilty till proven innovent and
potentially give access to medical records. Perhaps the most
"righteous" amongst us should refelect on the potential cost to
us all.

After all sport is really only a game.
By Dr Rob Dawson

20 March 2009 at 13:54pm

Let's be honest. Dwain is being punished for what he said, not
for what he did. Perhaps the fact that he is prepared to tell it
how it really is has rattled a few people in the commentatary box
and who are now involved at the highest levels of the sport? If
he had been prepared to play the game, been a good little boy and
kept his mouth shut and his pen tucked away he wouldn't be
attracting such attention. The truth hurts people. Live with it.
Dwain wasn't doing anything that no-one else did or had done in
the past.
By Call me cynical

20 March 2009 at 14:27pm

Does [name removed] on BBC not know that everyone knows he was up
to it too?
By BBC Hater

21 March 2009 at 00:56am