Dwain Chambers has been selected for the GB athletics squad for the World Indoor Championships in Valencia.
It is of course controversial, and UK Athletics chief Niels de Vos (I will have to try and remain impartial here, as de Vos was chief executive of Sale Sharks and Stockport County under the banner of Cheshire Sports, the sporting arm of multi-millionaire Brian Kennedy. Their decision making severely impacted on the way County was run and arguably endangered the club. Anyway…) was all but demanding the selection committee to activate a loophole in the selection process to avoid selecting him.
The loophole, which allows the selection committee to choice another athlete in “exceptional circumstances” mainly relating to performance, value judgements or stone-cold belief, was last used in 1983 when a struggling Coe managed to usurp Peter Elliott, who initially won 1500m Olympic trial, only to have his place given to the Olympic champion Coe.
In the end, it was a decision that paid off for Great Britain and for Coe; but it impacted on Elliott who, while having a place for the 800m, had to go through an unfamiliar routine of two qualifying races prior to the final. In the end, he succumbed to injury and was unable to run for gold.
Chambers’ selection was begrudging. The statement released by the selection committee is far from complimentary:
“Taking him to the World Indoors deprives young, upwardly mobile committed athletes of this key development opportunity.
“Our World Class Performance Programme is focused on achievement at Olympic and World level. On this basis, it is extremely frustrating to leave young athletes at home; eligible for Beijing, in possession of the qualifying standard and committed to ongoing participation in a drug-free sport.
In contrast, we have to take an individual whose sudden return, especially when considered against his previous actions and comments, suggests that he may be using the whole process for his own ends.
“Unfortunately, the committee felt that the selection criteria pertaining to the winner of the trials, coupled with the manner of Dwain’s performance, left them no room to take any other decision.
“We wish all the selected athletes well at the event, but will certainly explore ways in which future selections can be made to match the true ‘spirit’ of our sport.”
I don’t think Chambers will need any more inspiration after reading that. Chambers beat the rest of the field, and therefore he has the right to go — former drugs cheat or not. No other athlete was good enough, and that’s the end of the matter. He has carried out his sentence, has realised that he was a product of corruption and not a cause, and can do nothing else except, in his words, “let the legs do the talking.”
And I think that’s another reason for the animosity to Chambers. He has just walked back into the sport after flirting with American Football, and beat the rest of the field who train day in, day out.
He exposed the rest of the athletes as not being good enough, and not matching his ability minus chemical assistance. In essence, he showed up the other athletes royally, and they (UK Athletics, Steve Cram et.al) do not like it. Indeed, it was refreshing to hear 2nd place Simeon Williamson supporting Chambers.
Chambers obviously is good enough, and it’s time he proved it without science’s help.