Chambers is cleared for London but why is British sprinting in the slow lane
23:04 GMT, 29 April 2012
Dwain Chambers will be told his Olympic ban has been lifted on Monday. The Court of Arbitration for Sport will confirm at 3pm Sportsmail’s revelation of 10 days ago that he is free to compete at London 2012.
CAS will say that the British Olympic Association cannot ban any athlete — including Chambers, who systematically took steroids in the early 2000s — from Olympic Games for life for serious doping offences because such a bylaw is at odds with the World Anti-Doping Agency’s lax code.
But CAS will voice support for the BOA’s stance against drugs, a sentiment likely to usher in stronger sanctions when the rule book is rewritten after the Games.
Second chance: Dwain Chambers is to be cleared for the Olympics
Chambers, Britain’s top 100 metres sprinter despite being 34, now has to qualify. He must run 10.18sec to gain selection, which he should manage comfortably.
But beyond the moral dilemma of whether he should compete this summer lies an equally perplexing question: why, at 34, is he still our best chance of a 100m medal
It is surely an indictment of UK Athletics, with 25million worth of funding for their home Games, that they have not nurtured anyone capable of beating a former drugs cheat whose only Olympics so far came in Sydney 12 years ago.
For all Britain’s unforgettable successes in the 100m — from Harold Abrahams to Allan Wells to the ultimately tainted Linford Christie — the well has dried up.
None of the talent to emerge here this century (Chambers came to prominence in the late Nineties) has run sub-10sec. Eighty have done it since Jim Hines first did in 1968. Only three are British: Christie, Chambers and Jason Gardener.
The talent pool is not bereft. Christian Malcolm, Mark Lewis-Francis, Craig Pickering, Harry Aikines-Aryeetey and Simeon Williamson won world or European titles as teenagers. Yet none has set a personal best this decade.
Next best Simeon Williamson (left) could pose a challenge to Chambers
But why It is a story, in part, of expensive but unsuccessful coaching, and easily won funding that has sated competitive hunger.
Former world record-holder Asafa Powell said: ‘British sprinters are lazy. They don’t really want to practise. In Jamaica, you have to work harder for what you want.’
The point is amplified by Dai Greene, Britain’s world 400m hurdles champion. ‘It’s too much too soon,’ he said. ‘They do well as juniors then get endorsements because the 100m is high-profile. They think they have made it before their careers have started.’
Relay sprinters receive a Lottery package of up to 70,000 without needing top results in individual sprints. No Briton bar Chambers has a remote chance of making the Olympic final, hence why UKA chief coach Charles van Commenee prioritises the faint hope of a relay medal.
Van Commenee, who took over after Beijing 2008, brought in Michael Khmel, a Ukraine-born coach, to work at Loughborough. Dan Pfaff, a biomechanics expert, came to London’s Lee Valley centre on a reputed 125,000 salary. Five sprinters left their existing coaches as part of the upheaval.
But Khmel, who is coaching Aikines-Aryeetey, Pickering and James Dasaolu, is no longer relay coach. And Van Commenee recently brought back Mike McFarlane, having sacked him in the clearout that made space for Khmel and Pfaff.
False hope: Britain won gold in the 4 x 100m relay at the 2004 Olympics
While our stars have been licking their wounds in front of a succession of coaches, France have emerged as Europe’s most potent sprinting nation through Christophe Lemaitre, 21, and Jimmy Vicaut, 20. Lemaitre has worked for seven years with the same local coach, Pierre Carraz.
And the figures support the idea of stagnation. In 2000, Britain had three men in the world’s top 25, all under 10.09sec — 9.86sec was the world’s leading time and only eight men were under 10sec. Last year, it was 9.76sec and 20 were under 10sec. Only Chambers from Britain was in the world’s top 25. In the middle of that period — in 2004 in Athens — came Britain’s Olympic gold in the 4x100m. It bred false optimism and complacency.
What chance of a recovery Among the current crop the only viable hope is Williamson, who Usain Bolt talked of highly two years ago. He has since had a knee operation and, at 26, is trying to resurrect his career in Jamaica.
So Chambers is still our top sprinter, even if last year’s rankings indicate he will only scrape into the Olympic semi-finals. A favourable draw might provide a precarious passage to the final. As for the rest, what a scandalous waste of money on unfulfilled talent.