Truth or Wasted Black Ink?

Story written by EPelle

Dwain Anthony Chambers, the NFL Europe hopeful and a former world-class sprinter whom I've featured on several occasions on this blog, has spoken out on BBC's Inside Sport again being asked for a response on performance-enhancing drugs - including his own private usage and speculating whether or not Olympic athletes are also taking drugs.

Chambers' discussions follow a week-long spate of confessions in which former professional cycling riders and doctors to those Tour riders - and even a masseur - detailed their accounts of having used drugs (including EPO) and aided others along in the process, and comes at the heels of Floyd Landis' public arbitration hearing - which ended last Wednesday.

Chambers, interviewed by Matthew Pinsent - a BBC Sport reporter and four-time Olympic rowing gold medalist who was knighted in 2004, discussed among other things how a non-chalant attitude toward cheating caught up with Chambers.

"I was under the assumption that I wouldn't get caught," Chambers said on the programme, which airs tonight (28-may).

Chambers did get caught, and was punished by the three-man disciplinary counsel which heard his case and reached a conclusion after seven hours of testimony by the legal teams and expert witnesses representing UK Athletics (including Dr. Don Catlin) and Chambers. UK Athletics was said to have spent over £300.000 of its anti-doping budget on the Chambers case.

A newcomer to the drugs-testing world, THG was not named on either the WADA or IOC prohibited-substance list in 2003, however Dr. Catlin was able to scientifically demonstrate that chemically and pharmacologically, THG was directly derived from an identified anabolic steroid, gestrinone.

As previously stated on earlier blogs, Chambers was stripped of times, records, performances and honours achieved during the period he was on THG. He first denied having been a part of the BALCO scandal, attributing his positive test to a contaminated substace he received from a BALCO supplement, but later confessed and took his punishment following the hearing.

Since Chambers' admission to his performance-enhancing drugs usage, he's been an on-again, off-again topic for journalists the past four years, with courage to speak out about his misdeeds and the honesty to look people and other athletes in the face who have not been quick to extend him a welcome hand.

Chambers has tried to go on in life wearing two different shoes - one which has the lure of a good future, and one which has left a lengthy stretch of lawn gutted up when he dragged himself, his family, friends, fans and the sport of athletics through a dark period of lies, cover-ups and a blame culture.

"We all go through different chapters in life," Chambers said to Pinsett.

"I came to a crossroad in my life where I took a wrong turn, you know, got hit by a bus, but fortunately, I was able to get back up on my feet, and you know, go in another direction."

Chambers has had his back turned to athletics since he chose to go full-fledge into the world of professional American fotboll (NFL Europe) at the end of last year. Nevertheless, during each and every interview which is conducted with Chambers - even from yours truly, Chambers doesn't seem too tired or too bored to deal with the subject which continually arises about drug use - four years after the fact.

Chambers has no apparent axe to grind with the sport. He has parted ways temporarily in decent standing and at peace with his soul, and competed in last year's EAA European Championships in Göteborg in the 100m (7th in 10,24 seconds [result]) and 4x100m relay (lead-off leg on victorious 38,91 team [result]). Chambers has also gotten back a noticeable amount of fan support who have followed his transition to the gridiron.

Why then all the fuss about drug use, and is there any significance in speaking with Chambers about it?

Does Chambers provide insight into the issue of drugs usage, or do journalists simply find the right time to tie in old news to current events in order to piggy-back on the wave of the day?

Dwain Chambers, along with an American, Kelli White, seem to be the only athletes these days who have taken a social responsibility for their actions and have spoken openly, honestly and, at times, painfully about their exploits in the underground world of drug-taking and risk-taking.

So when the words "Olympics" and "sprinters" and "drugs" come up in conversation - a touchy topic, as Chambers has been barred from competing in the Olympics for Great Britain for the rest of his natural life, Chambers answers Pinsett's questions about whether a "clean" sprinter could defeat a "dirty" one in an Olympic final.

Plainly, calmly and assuredly, Chambers chimes in: "It's possible, but that person that's taken drugs has to be having a real bad day. That's what I believe."

Chambers believes a lot of things, and isn't shy to state what's on his mind.

One's first reaction to hearing and/or reading what Chambers has to say could be along the lines that Chambers harbours ill-will and a great deal of disappointment with the sport, and will take every opportunity to spread a cloud of doubt and suspicion over sprinting and athletics. He has not been alone, however, in discussing drugs-usage, with several other athletes from another sport, cycling, a step ahead of him.

A sudden about-face took place in professional cycling this past week, with Zheff de Hont, a former masseur of Germany's Team Telekom racing team telling the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that he injected Jan Ullrich with EPO, and Georg Huber, who worked on six Olympic teams, acknowledging he provided cyclists testosterone between 1980 and 1990 - including 1996 Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis. One other rider, Christian Henn, a former Team Telekom member, last week admitted to previous EPO use.

Chambers tells Pinsett that WADA is a long way behind the dopers, and assures that there are other non-detectable drugs on the scene.

Ultimately, Dr. Catlin announced his resignation from the helm of the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory on 2007-March-13 in what he described as an opportunity to turn to research.

According to Dr. Catlin, performance-enhancing drug use increased – not decreased – following the BALCO saga.

“If you’re a pro athlete and you read all about it and how extensive it is, even if you’re clean, you think: ‘Gee, I’ve got to get with it,’" he said in an interview with the New York Times last year.

"I have been quite surprised to see how extensive it is, even me, with the jaded eye with which I look at sports. There’s a lot more than I ever thought.”

Chambers offers an answer for the continued cat-and-mouse game being played between those who are behind the testing and those who are creating elusive ways for athletes to continue cheating.

"It's simple," he told Pinsett. "Science always moves faster than the testers."

Chambers' feet have moved faster than most others, as he's run from noll to 100m in under 10 seconds. His mouth moves slower than others when it comes time to talk about drugs, his past and the influence he has had on the sport - both positive and negative.

The words which he utters from his lips have proven to be true, thus far, and there's no reason to believe he won't continue speaking openly, freely and truthfully about the dirty world hidden far beneath the surface the every-day fan is able to see. He'll continue talking, because people continue asking. We continue asking, because others continue to get caught. Catching cheats will continue to happen, but, according to Chambers, millions of dollars thrown at "research" won't slow down the process.