I'm still on track, insists Chambers


Last updated at 23:09 29 December 2006

Reports that Dwain Chambers has left the starting blocks for the last time are unfounded. He may even attend the British team’s next relay practice.

"I ain’t burning no bridges. All options are open," says the sprinter whose U.S. track agent told the BBC he may have run his last race.

Option One, for now, is to use his inherent speed, unadulterated by the artificial substances that were his downfall as an Olympic athlete, to earn a new career in American Football.

He took step one at a training camp in Cologne recently. The next will be another camp in Barcelona in mid-January and, if selected, a third in Tampa, Florida, in early February where the NFL’s European teams choose their squads.

Option Two came about because he practised in Hyde Park. One morning, while searching the grass for a diamond ear stud, he was approached by a man walking his wife’s dog.

Jonathan Crystal is a barrister who has looked after the interests in his time of Brian Lara, Seve Ballesteros and Naseem Hamed.

After introductions ("he said watching me run had given him a lot of pleasure in the past") Crystal, a director of Cardiff City, is using his contacts to seek work for Chambers, possibly as a personal trainer or fitness adviser.

Chambers must give a percentage of everything he earns from track back because of a deal struck after admitting he had taken drugs for two years before his fateful test. So career options one and two are potentially more lucrative.

Option Three, though, remains. "Part of my mind is saying, 'leave track alone' but it is not the wise thing to do. If it doesn’t work out in Tampa, I’ve time for track this summer."

And if football does work out? "I plan to come back to track regardless. It’s something I still believe I have a passion for. At the moment, I don’t but I will in time."

Running 10.07sec in his first race back showed speed was still there after two years nine months suspended but not much else.

"I got through that first meet but after that the season was all downhill. The will wasn’t there. My mind was all over the place."

But he won European relay gold in the end. "Yes, that was nice, to be able to repay everybody else what I’d lost them. Darren (Campbell) messed it up, but whatever."

Campbell refused to join the others on a victory lap. Has he spoken to him since? "No, and I have no intention of doing so. I said my piece beforehand, on TV and in person. I’d said, 'if you’ve got anything against me running, say it', and I was man enough to apologise to their faces. It was needed and I thought they all appreciated it. Darren had his own agenda."

Apologising to relay team-mates who had lost medals because of his cheating was not the hardest part. That was telling his mother, Adlith, of the positive test. "Because she means more to me than anybody," he confessed.

"She always said, 'be careful what you do', and then for her to have to go out still holding her head up when people made comments … that’s hard on her.

"She was fantastic. In her mind, as long as I am okay, she is okay. She always says what people write in the papers are just words. Mind, I only showed her positive stuff in papers. Mothers don’t understand negative stuff, do they?

"She’s strong and she has her church and that kept her uplifted a lot, and during that time I kept with her a lot which helped put her mind at ease, and now she gets to see my son a lot which takes her mind off the other things."

The other woman in his life is Leone, his partner and mother of Skye, 14 months. Her salary as a civil servant supports them. "It’s tough being dependent but for the moment I have to keep eating humble pie."

Has he ever thought about what would have happened if he had made a different choice when the drugs were on the table?

"She and I talk about it a lot. Would I have just stayed one of the regular athletes, would I have got to the top anyway …

"At the time I saw it as a opportunity. I didn’t think about the negative sides. Stupid as it sounds, I thought it was an opportunity to get level with the others. People said I was progressing, and I suppose I was in 1997, ’98, ’99, but I kept thinking, 'I can’t beat these guys'.

"And then Remi Korchemny came around and I got sidetracked from what I should have believed in, my own ability, and got drawn into a whole different world."

He says he never discussed his options with Korchemny’s other drug cheats. "It’s something athletes just don’t talk about. What I came to understand at that time was, 'if you ain’t doing it, you ain’t winning s**t'."

But in the first three years out of the junior ranks, he had won European silver, world bronze and been fourth in the Olympics?

"I see that now but at the time I couldn’t take losing. I hated it. I came from a good junior background where I’d never lost anything. And then I was seeing too many backs of heels."

Most of those heels were owned by others on drugs? "I had no proof but it was what I thought and it further encouraged me to take the decision I reached. I had no idea it would escalate to the level it did. No idea.

"If I could have looked in a glass ball and seen, I wouldn’t have done it. But I didn’t and it happened. I didn’t want to listen. As far as I was concerned my way was the right way. I know now 99 per cent of my decisions have been wrong because I didn’t converse.

"I just made my mind up and did things. I wanted a big motorbike. I got it. I wanted to go to America. I did it. I got drawn into taking drugs and didn’t think about the implications. Stupid, but my decisions. Nobody to blame but me."

He listens now. "To Leone. If I didn’t, I’d get my ear chewed. And then I speak to Jonathan and he brings a whole different perspective to it. It’s tough because I am used to doing everything my way."

One thing he does not regret is the interview in which he confessed all. "That interview has put me in a lot of debt but at least I can talk openly about it and not have to put my head down. It was the best thing I did."

But he did not expose others involved.

"It was presented to me during negotiations with my attorney that I should help the U.S. Anti Doping Agency but nothing’s come of it. That’s fine. I’ll go about doing something to help in other ways. I’ve already talked at schools."

But those who turned him to drugs?

"I don’t hold it against them. I can’t. It was me. They didn’t force me to take anything. They put it there. I could take it or walk away from it. It was my decision.

"A kid at one of the schools asked why I did it. I said, 'it seemed like a good thing for me at the time'.

"And I told them, 'a lot of you who do track are going to be offered, are going to be put in the same position I was, and when you get to that crossroads, remember what happened to me. You will get busted. Be sensible. I wasn’t'."

Is it not asking for trouble going into a sport like American Football which is notorious for drugs. "I’ll never take drugs again. Ever. Not in my life. You don’t have to take things. I’ve learned that."

So what goals are left?

"I would like to accomplish something in American Football, build my self-esteem up again and then I’d be in a good position when I come back to track. Which I shall."

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