Dwain Chambers

Dwain Chambers
Dwain Chambers
Personal information
Nationality English
Born 5 April 1978 (1978-04-05) (age 33)
London, England
Height 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight 13 st 1 lb (83 kg)
Sport Running
Event(s) 100 metres, 60 metres
Club Belgrave Harriers

Dwain Anthony Chambers (born 5 April 1978) is an English sprinter of Afro-Caribbean descent. He has won medals on the international stage numerous times and is one of the fastest European sprinters in the history of recorded athletics.[1] His primary event is the 100 metres sprint, in which he has the second fastest time by a British sprinter.[2] He is the European record holder for the 60 metres and 4 × 100 metres relay events with 6.42 seconds and 37.73 s respectively. He received a two-year ban in 2003 for taking performance enhancing drugs.

Chambers was a promising young athlete, setting a junior world record of 10.06 s in the 100 m. He was the bronze medallist in the 1999 World Championships and made his first Olympic appearance at the Sydney 2000 Games; he turned in the best 100 m performance by a European at both events. By 2001, he had become the top British sprinter, breaking the 10-second barrier twice at the Edmonton World Championships. He became the 100 m European champion and record holder in 2002 but, in October 2003, he received a two-year athletics ban and a ban from the Olympics for life for using THG, a banned substance.

Chambers returned to the track and field circuit in June 2006, and won gold with his teammates in the 4 × 100 m at the 2006 European Championships. He tried other sports, including a spell with the Hamburg Sea Devils of the NFL Europa league and a rugby league trial with the Castleford Tigers. Sprinting success came over 60 m when he won silver at the 2008 World Indoor Championships, gold at the 2009 European Indoors and became world champion at the 2010 World Indoor Championships. He remains barred from the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, and much of the European racing circuit. He published an autobiography, Race Against Me, in 2009. He currently lives with his partner Leonie Daley and their sons, Skye and Rocco. At the 2011 World Championship he has been disqualifed as false start reason.


Early career

Junior athletics

Chambers was born in Islington and raised in Finsbury, London, and running was a part of his family life.[3][4][5] His older sister Christine won the senior 100 metres finals at the English Schools Championships in 1986 and 1987 and competed in the European Athletics Junior Championships.[6][7] As a schoolboy he was coached by Selwyn Philbert who devoted himself to the young sprinter.[8] Chambers first showed his athletic promise at the English Schools' Athletic Association Championships. In the boys' intermediate 100 m race in 1994 he ran to victory with a time of 10.64 seconds which, as of 2008, ranks as the joint fifth best time in the history of the competition.[9][10] Chambers built on this with a strong showing at the 1995 European Junior Championships, receiving two gold medals for his efforts in the 100 m and the sprint relay, the latter with the help of fellow British sprinter Marlon Devonish and current British bobsleigher Dan Money.[11] Chambers returned two years later to the 1997 European Junior Championships, this time showing even more promise. He retained the sprint relay gold medal and broke the 100 m sprint record with a time of 10.06 s, a world junior record at the time.[1]

Senior athletics

Chambers' success continued in the 100 m event at the 1998 European Championships. He attained second place with 10.10 s, finishing second to British compatriot Darren Campbell.[12] The promising sprinter was progressing and achieved a new personal best at the 1998 IAAF World Cup with a time of 10.03 s on 11 September 1998. However, he only finished third in the race which featured six athletes recording personal bests and a championship record breaking winner.[13] Soon after, he set the championship record as part of the 4x100 relay team at the 1998 Commonwealth Games.[14][15] His ability attracted the attention of former sprinter and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Mike McFarlane, who became his coach.[8] Chambers remained hungry for gold medals and achieved first place in the 100 m in the 1999 European Cup held in Paris.[1] His times continued to improve and shortly afterwards in Nuremberg he became only the second European sprinter to break the ten second barrier with a time of 9.99 s.[10] Chambers felt elated at the achievement but the competition was fierce as fellow British sprinter Jason Gardener scored a time of 9.98 s in Lausanne soon after, becoming the third Briton to break the barrier.[16][17] In addition, Chambers remained some distance behind his North American counterparts, as did the other European sprinters. He had yet to win gold on the world senior stage and the 1999 World Championships in Seville provided him with an opportunity.

Seville World Championships to Sydney Olympics

Chambers attained a new personal best at the tournament, registering a time of 9.97 s in the 100 m finals. However, the North American dominance of the event was palpable as United States sprinter Maurice Greene and Canadian runner Bruny Surin took first and second place respectively. Chambers' third place time paled in comparison to Bruny's national record setting 9.84 s and Greene's championship record time of 9.80 s.[18] The 4x100 metres relay event was more fruitful for the British sprinters. Along with Gardener, Campbell and Marlon Devonish, Chambers raced to second place, finishing in 37.73 s. The US team, led by Greene, won the event in 37.59 s, again outrunning their European rivals.[19]

Though he failed to win a gold medal at the tournament, Chambers' silver and bronze medal winning performances brought him into the spotlight. His third place finish in the 100 m made him Europe's top performer in the event and at the age of 21 he was the youngest World Championships 100 m medallist.[7] World record holder Maurice Greene was hitting his peak, winning three gold medals in Seville, but Chambers had youth on his side. At 21, Greene's personal best was 10.08 s; a time which denied the American a podium place at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and was over a tenth of a second slower than Chambers' 1999 best.[20]

With the 2000 Sydney Olympics approaching, Chambers studied the technique of other sprinters to improve himself. In an interview with BBC journalist Tom Fordyce, Chambers noted the stamina Greene and Surin had gained from running in the 200 metres event and Jason Gardener's improved acceleration through running the 60 metres event.[21] He experimented with distances at the beginning of 2000, sprinting over 50, 60 and 200 m in various competitions. He set a personal best of 6.55 s in the 60 m event in Ghent, Belgium, on 11 February 2000.[1] The 100 m remained his priority however and Chambers set his sights on gold, declaring his intention to run under 10 s in the event numerous times in preparation for the Olympics.[21]

His confidence was running high but the sprinter suffered a setback as a hamstring injury caused him to miss six weeks of training.[16] When Chambers returned from injury his performances were lacklustre. He finished ninth at the 2000 Golden Gala in Rome with a substandard 10.41 s, admitting that his confidence had plummeted.[22] His poor form continued; on 5 August 2000 at the British Grand Prix he finished seventh in a tame 10.30 s, causing him to consider quitting the season altogether.[16]

Chambers' slump put his Olympic chances in jeopardy but he had a late rejuvenation that guaranteed his place. At the British Olympic trials he snatched first place with 10.11 s; just one hundredth of a second ahead of Darren Campbell.[23] Victory against in-form world record holder Maurice Greene followed shortly afterwards. Chambers finished first in Gateshead, against international competition, registering 10.11 s against a strong head wind. This raised Chambers' confidence and he professed his desire to take home a medal from the Games, whether it be gold, silver or bronze.[24]

The results of the 2000 Sydney Olympics proved bitter-sweet for the Englishman. Chambers qualified with relative ease through the heat stages, finishing either first or second each time. Chambers achieved a season's best in the 100 m final on 23 September 2000, crossing the line in 10.08 s.[1] However, this was not sufficient for a medal and he again suffered a defeat to sprinters from the other side of the Atlantic. Chambers finished behind Greene, Trinidadian Ato Boldon and Obadele Thompson from Barbados.[25] Chambers had to settle for European supremacy without medals.

Edmonton World Championships

Chambers had failed to top the podium on the Olympic stage but he continued to shine in other competitions. The sprinter claimed first place in the 100 m for his club Belgrave Harriers at the European Clubs Cup.[26] His time of 10.12 s equalled the meeting record and he noted this was his fastest start to a season yet.[27][28] He also performed well in the Amateur Athletics Association (AAA) trials in Birmingham; his 10.01 s was the fastest time recorded in Britain by a British sprinter.[10][29][30] Chambers ran with a marked improvement in consistency in 2001. He won at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Grand Prix in Seville in 10.01 s on 8 June 2001 and finished third in ten seconds flat at the Lausanne Grand Prix a month later.[31][32][33] In the run up to the 2001 IAAF Edmonton World Championships Chambers remarked on his own performances with aplomb: "I am very consistent in the 10.00s this year, and that bodes well for the Worlds. If you are running as fast as Linford Christie in his prime, it gives you a lot of confidence."[30]

You have to have it upstairs to beat Maurice. His whole aura can have an effect on your mental focus. If you get caught up in his mind-games then you'll be crushed.[34]

Chambers on Maurice Greene
BBC Interview with Tom Fordyce

The AAA trials and British Grand Prix saw Chambers improving over other distances, setting 200 m personal bests of 20.65 s then 20.31 s respectively.[10][34] The former result meant Chambers was selected to run in the event at the World Championships, in addition to the 100 m.[35] Looking back to his defeat in Sydney, Chambers tried to discover what made Maurice Greene so dominant. In an interview with Tom Fordyce, he reflected on the effect Greene had on other sprinters with his strong presence and mind games; the veteran undermined the competition both physically and mentally. "You have to get out in front of him and hold on for dear life" he said of the world record holder.[34]

Chambers broke the ten second barrier twice in the 2001 World Championships with 9.97 s in the quarter finals and 9.99 s in the final.[36][37] This was not enough for a medal in a strong race which featured five sprinters running under ten seconds; Greene was triumphant once again. Though Chambers finished fifth in the event, this was later amended to fourth place after silver medallist Tim Montgomery tested positive for banned substances.[38] Greene and Chambers both suffered hamstring injuries in the final, thus ruling the latter out of the 200 m event.[39][40] Chambers recovered in time for the 2001 Goodwill Games in Brisbane, Australia and finished in first place while the still-injured Greene could only manage to commentate on his European rival's victory.[41]

2002 Commonwealth Games

Chambers' coach Mike McFarlane struggled with the work load of full-time training.[42] Frustrated by the distance between himself and the top sprinters, Chambers decided to relocate to California to work with veteran coach Remi Korchemny and nutritionist Victor Conte.[43] After parting ways with American sprinter Tim Montgomery, Conte looked to Chambers to fill the athlete's berth.[44] In the run up to the year's major events, Chambers was in fine form and recorded a 200 m personal best of 20.27 s in Athens on 10 June 2002.[x 1][45] Montgomery, impressed by Chambers' training regime, tipped the Briton to win the gold at the forthcoming 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England.[46]

I'm not taking anything away from Dwain. He was better prepared than me and fully deserved the victory. He's getting better and better. I can't be mad with myself – he ran so well.[47]

Maurice Greene after losing to Chambers in Oslo
From BBC Sport

He won the 100 m at the Commonwealth Games trials in style, recording a season's best of 10.03 s.[x 1][48] On the strength of his performances Chambers was made team captain for the 2002 European Cup event.[49] The appointment fired the sprinter's confidence and he equalled Linford Christie's European Cup record of 10.04 s in the 100 m.[x 1] His performance helped win the event for the British team, earning them a place in the 2002 IAAF World Cup.[50] Further victories followed with times of 10.05 s at Oslo's ÅF Golden League meeting and a wind-assisted 9.95 s in Sheffield.[x 1][47][51] Chambers beat Maurice Greene both times and the American complimented him on his victory and his constant improvement.[47] Emerging as the favourite to win the 100 m at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, Chambers faced stiff competition from British newcomer Mark Lewis-Francis who was finishing fractions of a second behind him.[42] Competition commenced on 26 July 2002 and Chambers won all his preliminary races and reached the final, along with Lewis-Francis and Jason Gardener.[52][53][54] However, Chambers started poorly and he suffered a cramp mid-race, ending up in last place. He later revealed that he had feigned injury as the brief hamstring cramp was caused by drug abuse.[55] The British sprinters had the three slowest times in the final, with Lewis-Francis also beset by injury.[56]

Chambers redoubled his efforts after the injury in Manchester and was in good form during the rest of the season. He claimed a gold medal in the 100 m at the 2002 European Championships in Munich with a championship record of 9.96 s.[x 1][8][57] He received a second gold medal two days later, anchoring the Great Britain team to victory in the 4x100 m relay.[x 1][58] Further confirming his 100 m pedigree, Chambers recorded a time of 9.94 s at the Weltklasse Zürich meeting, again beating world record holder Greene.[x 1][59] He finished the season with an impressive outing in favourable wind conditions at the 2002 IAAF Grand Prix Final in Paris. Chambers finished with a personal best of 9.87 s, equalling Linford Christie's European record, second only to Tim Montgomery's world record time of 9.78 s.[x 1][60] Reinforcing his successful season, he received the 2002 European Athlete of the Year Trophy for his achievements on the track.[61]

2003 World Championships

Maurice Greene's era was slowly coming to an end and Chambers began the 2003 season with a grandiose statement: namely that he would lower the 100 m record to 9.65 s — over a tenth of a second faster than Greene's world record at the time.[62] After recovering from a minor injury he suffered in January,[63] Chambers began the season running the 60 m at indoor events. Despite claims he could beat the 60 m record, his form was disappointing and he failed to pass the heats at the 2003 British Grand Prix, finishing fourth in a time of 6.68 s.[x 1][64] Undeterred he set his sights on the AAA trials in order to qualify for the IAAF World Indoor Championships. However, with a time of 6.59 s,[x 1] he suffered defeat against Mark Lewis-Francis by a hundredth of a second, narrowly missing out on a spot at the championships.[65]

Chambers announced that he was to part with trainer Mike McFarlane in favour of a permanent relationship with Ukrainian coach Remi Korchemny.[66] Despite the change, the sprinter started the 100 m season modestly, finishing third and fourth in competitions in Modesto, California and Eugene, Oregon respectively.[x 1][67][68] At an international meeting in Glasgow Chambers won but his finishing time of 10.15 s still failed to impress.[x 1][69] Faced with the prospect of not qualifying for the World Championships, Chambers improved under pressure, winning the AAA trials in 10.08 s.[x 1][70][71]

His season's best came under strange circumstances at the British Grand Prix — the timing system broke down so the sprinters' races had to be recorded manually. Initially timed by hand at dead on ten seconds, Chambers' winning run was changed to 9.96 s after video evidence was consulted.[x 1][26] This boded well for the upcoming World Championships in Paris. However, Chambers could not repeat his Grand Prix form and missed a podium finish in the 100 m final with 10.08 s,[x 1] losing out on the bronze medal to rival Darren Campbell.[72] Chambers squandered his anchoring lead in the 4x100 m relay, allowing Joshua J. Johnson of the United States team to beat him to the finish line.[x 1] Though a close fourth and a silver medal could not be deemed as a complete failure, there was a sense of disappointment in the press that Chambers' record breaking claims and gold medals had never materialised.[8][73] However, in spite of his lacklustre form, Chambers was about to make the headlines.

Drug ban

A sample for an out-of-competition drugs test that Chambers had provided in Germany on 1 August 2003 was re-examined in October and subsequently tested positive for banned substances.[26][43][74][74][75] The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) were investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO); the workplace of both Chambers' coach Remi Korchemny and nutritionist Victor Conte. Both men faced charges of distributing illegal drugs to athletes in the United States.[76][77] The BALCO scandal uncovered drug use in a wide range of sportsmen and women, including sprinters Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery.[75]

Chambers' new coach had introduced him to Conte as a way of providing the sprinter with specialised nutritional supplements.[43] Conte had helped develop a type of anabolic steroid called THG, or tetrahydrogestrinone, at BALCO. After Chambers discovered that he had tested positive for drugs he sent his lawyer to meet Conte and make inquires as to the nature of the supplement. Conte assured him that all the substances were IAAF compliant.[77][78]

After further investigation, it was revealed on 22 October 2003 that Chambers had tested positive for the banned steroid THG.[26] Analysis of his backup sample also tested positive and the outcome was confirmed on 7 November 2003, making Chambers the first person to test positive for the new drug.[78] Chambers was suspended the same day with an independent UK Athletics tribunal pending.[79][80] The disciplinary hearing on 24 February 2004 resulted in a two-year ban from athletics, backdated to begin on 7 November 2003.[81][82] He was also banned for life from the Olympics and stripped of the medals he had won since mid-2002, after admitting that he had taken THG from that date.[43] Chambers' 2002 relay gold medal performance was erased, costing team-mates Darren Campbell, Marlon Devonish and Christian Malcolm their medals in the process. Chambers was also ordered by the IAAF to pay back his earnings from the period of his athletics career that was affected by his drug abuse.[26]

Conte claimed that rival coach Trevor Graham had revealed the drug to US testers, acting "purely out of competitive jealousy" as Chambers was challenging Graham's trainees; Montgomery and Greene.[83] Chambers denied that he had any knowledge that the substance he was taking was banned and claimed he was deceived by Conte over its true use.[43] However, he somewhat contradicted his statement in a later interview, saying that he had major suspicions that he was using banned substances but was too naïve and lacking in self-respect to act otherwise.[84] By Chambers' own admission in 2008, in a letter by his supplier Conte to British anti-doping chief John Scott, THG was not the only substance he had used during his career. In his frank confession he admitted to the use of epitestosterone cream, EPO, HGH, insulin lispro, modafinil and liothyronine.[85][86]

Banned from competition, Chambers had to search out alternative outlets for his athletic prowess. He had been considering a switch to American football prior to the ban to emulate his hero Renaldo Nehemiah.[87] Attempting to follow in his footsteps, Chambers tried out — unsuccessfully — with Nehemiah's old team, the San Francisco 49ers.[88] As a result he drifted on to the celebrity circuit, appearing on British reality television series Hell's Kitchen in May 2004. However, Chambers had little interest in the show and soon chose to leave.[89] He remained out of the limelight for over a year and a half, appearing in neither sporting events nor television.

Return to athletics

With a return to competition forthcoming, Chambers began training in Jamaica in late 2005 in preparation for the athletics season. He faced new challengers in the 100 m as Maurice Greene was no longer a dominant force and Jamaican Asafa Powell was the new world record holder. Under the guidance of Glen Mills, coach of Caribbean sprinters Kim Collins and Usain Bolt, Chambers set his eye upon competing at the World Indoor Championships in March.[43] The drug suspension had expired in November but he needed to pass four mandatory drugs tests in order to gain clearance to compete with the IAAF. He aimed to return with a performance in the 60 m at the British Grand Prix in February 2008 but his comeback was delayed. Following revelations that Chambers had been using THG since the beginning 2002, not since August 2003, as he had claimed to the IAAF, the body delayed his track return until the matter was resolved.[90] After a two-year ban for drugs, Chambers was cleared to return to the athletics circuit by the IAAF on 10 June 2006. However, his return was dependent on an agreement to repay prize money he won while under the influence of banned substances.[91] He returned to competition on 11 June 2006 in the Norwich Union British Grand Prix at Gateshead.[92] In the 100 m final he finished third in 10.07 s, behind Asafa Powell who equalled his own world record.[93][94] Chambers stated that his training regime with Bolt had helped him make a strong opening performance despite a long absence from competition.[95] The result placed Chambers at the top of the British rankings and was the second fastest time by a European sprinter in 2006.[10][96] However, Chambers had little cause for celebration as his return was coupled with the IAAF's decision to annul more of his performances. In reaction to his comments in the press, the governing body extended the nullification up to the beginning of 2002. This took away his European 100 m gold medal and invalidated his European record of 9.87 s.[97] The European record had since been broken by Francis Obikwelu of Portugal, who ran 9.86 s in the Athens 2004 Olympics.[98]

Ironically, with the exception of the 9.87 s he clocked to equal Linford Christie's British record in Paris in 2002, Chambers was a consistently quicker athlete before he moved to San Francisco that year and became entangled in the drugs net spun by Victor Conte and the Bay Area Lab Co-operative.[99]

Simon Turnbull on Chambers' drug use
from The Independent

Chambers lamented the effects of his drug use and noted the irony that the drugs did not do much to improve his performances.[99] Indeed, in his return to international competition his times were significantly worse compared to his pre-drug years. In the 100 m at 2006 European Championships in Gothenburg, Chambers recorded times of 10.24 s (first round),[100] 10.39 s (second round),[101] 10.25 s (semi-final) and 10.24 s (final, in which he finished fifth).[102] The results were sub-par and well below Chambers' personal and season's best. However, he was victorious as part of the gold medal-winning British 4x100 m team.[82] Darren Campbell, who was angry at losing his medals from the 2003 World Championships, refused to join the team in a celebratory lap, due to Chambers' inclusion in the team.[103] Campbell allegedly did not want Chambers to even be in the team on account of his record.[104]

After the 2006 European Athletics Championships, Chambers once again expressed an interest in leaving athletics in favour of American football, completing a week long NFL Europa training camp in Cologne in November.[105]

NFL Europa

Chambers completed NFL Europa training camps in November 2006, January and March 2007 and impressed NFL Europa bosses with his speed and mentality.[106][107][108] This resulted in a professional contract with German NFL Europa side Hamburg Sea Devils which Chambers signed on 10 March 2007.[109] In May 2007, as he prepared for the new NFL Europa season, Chambers reflected on drug use in athletics in an interview with Olympic gold medallist Sir Matthew Pinsent for the BBC's Inside Sport programme.[110]

When asked whether a clean athlete was likely to beat one using drugs in an Olympic final: "It's possible, but the person that's taken drugs has to be having a real bad day. That's what I believe".[111]

BBC interview with Matthew Pinsent

In the interview, Chambers claimed there would always be athletes using performance-enhancing drugs because drug testers did not keep pace with advances in science. Chambers added that in the Olympics finals athletes who took drugs had an immense advantage over those who remained clean.[111] Chambers was roundly condemned for his comments in the interview by both the press and his former colleagues in the athletics world, including Sir Steve Redgrave, Mo Farah,[112] and Sebastian Coe,[113] although former 100 m world record holder Asafa Powell supported Chambers' claims.[114]

Following news that Chambers was receiving new, legal nutritional supplements from Victor Conte, on 30 May 2007 NFL Europa confirmed that Chambers would undergo a vigorous drug testing regime with the Hamburg Sea Devils.[115] Chambers' new career was brought to a standstill when a stress fracture injury on his right foot ruled him out for the season.[116] The situation worsened further when the NFL closed the European league on 29 June 2007 leaving Chambers jobless.[117] He returned as a TV personality on reality television show Cirque de Celebrité in October but was unpopular with the public and subsequently voted off.[118][119]

Athletics again

Chambers racing against British competition in 2008.

Following the collapse of the NFL Europa franchise, Chambers made a second return to athletics in early 2008. Competing in the 60 m indoor final at the Birmingham Games on 3 February 2008, he finished with a time of 6.60 s, setting a new meeting record and finishing comfortably inside the 6.90 s standard necessary for entry in to the UK trials for the 2008 IAAF World Indoor Championships.[120] Despite opposition from UK Athletics, in which chief executive Niels de Vos initially banned Chambers from competing in the trials, the IAAF overruled the decision allowing Chambers to compete.[121] He went on to win the UK trials in Sheffield and was selected to run in the World Indoor Championships the following month in Valencia.[122] However UK Athletics stated that the decision to permit Chambers to run was done under duress, expressing their preference to send young talented athletes to Beijing in the place of the drug-tainted Chambers.[123]

Competing for Great Britain in Valencia, Spain at the World Indoor Championships on 7 March 2008, Chambers won a silver medal and recorded a new personal best time over 60 m of 6.54 s and finished second behind Olusoji Fasuba from Nigeria.[120][124] Despite the result, Chambers continued to encounter extensive criticism within athletics and refusals by promoters to invite him to key athletics events in the season ahead.[125] He also suffered financially as philanthropist Eddie Kulukundis, who had supported Chambers earlier in his career, now refused to sponsor the sprinter.[126][127] His poor financial state was compounded by the fact that he remained banned for life by the British Olympic Association (BOA), preventing him from competing in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. To return to the track Chambers had to rely on the money he received from his partner, Leonie Daley, a civil servant who he met at the Miss Jamaica UK competition.[128][129] The couple now had a child, a boy named Skye who was born in September 2005,[130] and Chambers desperately needed to earn a living to support his family and pay off debts incurred through the drug ban.[131] He was humbled by the experience and amassed a selection of cuttings about his fall from grace and the BALCO scandal in order to show his son the risks of drug abuse.[99]

Chambers tried to fashion himself as a living example of the dangers of drugs, sporting a t-shirt in Valencia with an anti-drugs slogan of "Just Say No!".[132] He also expressed regret about previous comments suggesting that drug use was necessary to reach the upper echelons of athletics and set about presenting himself as a changed, clean athlete — devoid of the bravado that had marked his earlier career.[133] Chambers' reinvention was met with a mixed reaction and the acceptance of a proven drug user on the track was not palatable to some.[134][135] Dame Kelly Holmes and parts of the British press called for Chambers to retire from the Great Britain athletics team.[136][137]

Rugby League

Chambers' return to athletics took an unusual turn when he confirmed on 31 March 2008 that he had joined English rugby league team Castleford Tigers on trial;[138][139] a move which surprised and angered in equal measure given the fact he had never played the sport before.[140][141][142] The Rugby Football League did not object to the move, in spite of his drug-damaged reputation, but stated much improvement was needed prior to any appearance for Castleford in the Super League competition.[143][144][145] At a press conference regarding his rugby career Chambers expressed a desire to compete in the Beijing Olympic Games, casting doubt on his dedication to his new career.[146] Chambers officially registered as a player with the Rugby Football League, and Martin Offiah declared that he was prepared to mentor Chambers.[147][148] He completed training with the Castleford Tigers first-team squad and made his debut in a reserve game against York City Knights.[149] However, Chambers' tentative exploits into rugby league proved short-lived as Castleford announced that they would not be offering him a contract.[150][151]

High Court appeal

Chambers (second from left), competing in the 2008 Olympic Trials, Birmingham

On 16 May 2008 Chambers announced that he was appealing for the removal of his Olympic ban at the High Court of Justice.[152] In the period building up to the appeal, Chambers returned to 100 m sprinting. In his first 100 m race since August 2006, Chambers won with a time of 10.26 s at Papaflessia in Kalamata, Greece on 4 June 2008.[153][154][155] Chambers then ran 10.28 s in the Alexander Stadium, Birmingham on 8 June 2008 and 10.24 s a week later in the Southern Counties Championships.[156][157] All three times fell short of the 10.21 s Olympic 'A' Standard and failed to separate him from other British contenders.[158] Following these events Chambers' performance vastly improved however, registering 10.14 s in heats and 10.06 s in the final of Germany's Biberach meeting and 10.00 s in the British 100 m National Championships and Olympic Trials on 12 July 2008.[159][160] The latter was the winning qualification time amongst the British sprinters, easily fell within the Olympic 'A' standard, and also made Chambers top of the British rankings.[160] In spite of this he remained a controversial figure and, though widely condemned by his peers, public opinion was split.[161]

Chambers' winning performance at the Olympic trials was in vain, however, as on 18 July 2008 it was announced that his bid to temporarily overturn his Olympic ban had failed. Mr. Justice Mackay of the High Court of Justice upheld the BOA ban and stated that a right to work was not sufficient reason to remove it. Lord Moynihan, chairman of the BOA, conveyed his satisfaction with the outcome, stating that those found to be abusing drugs did not deserve to represent Great Britain at the Olympics. However, he lamented that a sprinter of Chambers' calibre had in effect excluded himself from the competition.[162] The judgement cast doubt on any future Olympic performances as it caused Chambers to miss the 2008 Beijing Olympics.[163] Chambers still has the opportunity to have a full hearing to appeal the ban in March 2009 but whether he will choose to do so has not been revealed.[164]

It is a matter of regret that Dwain Chambers, an athlete with such undoubted talent...should by his own actions put himself out of the running to shine on the Olympic stage in Beijing.[162]

Lord Moynihan, chairman of the BOA, on Chambers' Olympic ban

The ill-fated high court appeal and dealing with the fact that he could not compete in Beijing took its toll on Chambers.[165] However, despite his age being a prohibitive factor, Chambers strengthened his resolve and set his sights on an appearance in the 2012 London Olympics.[166] Following the outcome of the court appeal, he denied any intention to retire and said that he wanted to prove that he could perform without the use of drugs. Regarding the London Olympic Games, he stated that competing was his main goal and any medal wins would be a bonus.[167] These intentions were met with hostility in some quarters however, with Lord Moynihan claiming that Chambers would sully the reputation of both the Great Britain athletics team and the London Olympics if he competed.[168] Still, as other avenues appeared to be closing, more opportunites arose and in late 2008 Chambers announced that he had signed a deal to write an autobiography covering athletics, his drug history and his personal life.[169] Furthermore, he had his second child in November, a boy named Rocco, and he announced his desire to become a sprint coach when his track career was finished.[170][171]

The hierarchy of UK Athletics changed and Charles van Commenee was given the task head coach.[172] Van Commenee's appointment signalled a new opportunity for Chambers as both the new coach and Niels De Vos welcomed him back to compete internationally for the Great Britain team.[173] The pair deemed Chambers an exceptional sprinter who had served his sentence — van Commenee was especially complimentary, stating: "He is a likeable guy and a damned fine athlete".[174] An appearance at the "Tackling Doping in Sport" conference underlined that he was a reformed figure as he told of the damage drugs had caused to his career and finances and the health hazards he had risked.[175] Despite a welcome back for international competition from the UKA, the body also supported the BOA's decision to ban Chambers from Olympic competition. Furthermore, London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe remained unfazed and flatly ruled out an appearance, commenting: "I am clear cut on the Chambers case – I don't think there is room for drugs cheats in sport".[174]

Race Against Me

Chambers decided he would no longer pursue legal action to overturn his Olympic ban and instead, considering that he realistically had three years until retirement, aimed to finish his career on a high.[176] Using his position as a more experienced sprinter, he encouraged the new generation of British sprinters to work together, following the model of the successful American and Jamaican teams.[177] He too took inspiration from his North American counterparts, intensively studying the technique of Usain Bolt to improve his own times. Seeing Bolt as the new generation's Maurice Greene, he vowed to step up his efforts with the aim of reaching the podium at the forthcoming 2009 World Championships in Berlin.[176][178] Meanwhile, the indoor season began well for Chambers; though he was banned from Euromeetings-organised events, he set a new personal best of 6.52 s in the 60 m at the Birmingham Indoor Grand Prix,[179] then became the UK Indoor Champion, equalling Mike Rodgers' world leading time of 6.51 s.[180] His run of good form culminated in success at the 2009 European Indoor Championships; in the semi-finals he broke the Ronald Pognon's European 60 m record with a 6.42 s run, beating Jason Gardener's 10-year-old British record by four hundredths of a second.[181] He followed this with a gold medal-winning performance of 6.46 s in the final.[182] British head coach van Commenee stated that Chambers had undergone vigorous testing and that his performance sent "a message that you can win and break European records in the proper way."[183]

Chambers competing in the 2009 European Team Championships

The record-breaking performance brought new opportunities to race, including an invite from the Berlin IAAF Golden League meet.[184][185] However, organiser Euromeetings condemned the invite as bad for the sport,[186] and revelations in Chambers' autobiography Race Against Me brought further controversy. The book, released after the Indoor Championships, contained in-depth personal accounts of his past drug abuse. An IAAF investigation concluded that the book demanded no further action on their part,[187] even though he had claimed that drug use remained rife in athletics, estimating that half the American Olympic squad in Beijing had used illegal substances.[188] Chambers signed a statement with UK Sport, verifying that he believed the information to be true and bringing a close to the organisation's inquiries into his drug use.[189] Olympic gold medallist and anti-drugs campaigner Ed Moses gave his support, saying that Chambers admissions provided a useful insight, but that athletes and administrators remained in denial about the high levels of doping in athletics.[190]

Invites to Golden League meets never materialised, but he continued to run at smaller events. He ran a European leading time of 10.06 seconds at Papaflessia in Greece,[191] and won the 100 m and 200 m (filling in as a substitute) races at the 2009 European Team Championships.[192] He headed into the national championships as the fastest Briton but 2008 runner-up Simeon Williamson won the final by some distance.[193] The result took Chambers by surprise and, although he vowed to bounce back from the loss,[194] he withdrew from the 200 m race citing exhaustion.[195][196] He said that, with a number of opportunities to race, he had become complacent but the loss to Williamson had spurred him on:"I haven't had to fight for anything really but now I do...I haven't lost all summer but I lost to someone good, he had the times and he wanted to beat me but he isn't going to do it again."[197]

At the World Championships Chambers finished sixth in 100 m final with a season's best of 10.00 seconds. He was the only sprinter from outside the Americas in the final and was some distance behind Bolt who ran a world record of 9.58 seconds. However, he was very pleased with his performance and said he was happy just to be involved in the fastest 100 m race ever.[198] He pulled out of the 200 m with a calf injury and called an end to his season.

World champion

Chambers with his world 60 m gold medal

The following year he began by focusing on the 2010 IAAF World Indoor Championships, and he won the 60 m at the UK trials in 6.50 seconds (a time only he had bettered in the previous two seasons).[199] His closest competitor, Ivory Williams, received a ban for marijuana usage leaving Chambers as a strong favourite.[200] After dominant performances in the heats of the World 60 m competition, he came back from a slow start in the final and overtook Michael Rodgers to become the world indoor champion with a time of 6.48 seconds.[201] Banned from the 2010 Commonwealth Games, he set his sights on making the team for the 2010 European Athletics Championships.[202]

Chambers left the European Championships without a medal while Lemaitre (centre) won the gold

Chambers opened his season on the Brazilian track and field circuit, recording 10.11 as runner-up behind Rodgers at the Grande Prêmio Brasil Caixa de Atletismo and then winning in Maringá.[203][204] A win at the Cezmi Or Memorial in Istanbul preceded the 2010 European Team Championships,[205] where he beat Christophe Lemaitre to win the 100 m, helping Great Britain to second place in the tournament and recording 9.99 seconds – the first sub-10 time by a European athlete in almost four years.[206]

Lemaitre and Chambers were seen as the only gold medal contenders for the 100 m final at the European Athletics Championships, but the event defied expectations in terms of times and placings. The Frenchman won in 10.11 seconds into a headwind while Chambers was entangled in a tight finish which saw the four following athletes record the same time (10.18). The less-favoured Mark Lewis-Francis and Martial Mbanjock were awarded the medals while Chambers was adjudged to have finished fifth behind Francis Obikwelu.[207][208]

The start of his 2011 season saw him take a fourth consecutive national title over 60 m with a European-leading time.[209] At the 2011 European Athletics Indoor Championships the following month he was beaten to the line by Obikwelu, although he was pleased with the silver medal as he had changed his training to focus towards the 100 m for that season.[210] Four straight wins on the Brazilian Athletics Tour came at the beginning of his outdoor season in May, including clockings of 10.01 and 10.05 seconds.[211]


Chambers' performances at tournaments in the 100 metres event make him one of the fastest European sprinters in the history of recorded athletics. His personal best of 9.97 s set at the 1999 Seville World Championships places him as the third fastest European in the 100 m. The faster European sprinters are, Nigerian born, Portuguese athlete, Francis Obikwelu with his European record of 9.86 s and Linford Christie with a former European record and current British record of 9.87 s.[2][212]

Chambers' annulled 9.87 s finish at the Paris Grand Prix in 2002 would have made him joint fastest British 100 m sprinter with Christie and the joint second fastest European in the event.[2][x 1] However, these times lag behind those of his North American counterparts. Track rival Maurice Greene's personal best of 9.79 s far outstrips that of Chambers. The times set by Tyson Gay (9.69 s), Asafa Powell (9.72 s) and Usain Bolt (9.58 s) also overwhelm his personal best.[2]

Amongst his British contemporaries Chambers ranks top with two 9.97 s finishes; the first in 1999 in Seville, Spain and the second in 2001 in Edmonton, Canada. Compatriot Mark Lewis Francis also scored a personal best of 9.97 s at the Edmonton World Championships. Great Britain team-mate Jason Gardener's personal best of 9.98 s falls just short of Chambers'. None of his British contemporaries have broken the ten second barrier on more than one occasion; Chambers has done so four times.[2]

Chambers is the current European record holder in the 60 m with 6.42 s and is the third fastest sprinter in the history of the event after Andre Cason and Maurice Greene.[183] Chambers shares the British and European records for the 4x100 metres relay with Gardener, Darren Campbell and Marlon Devonish with their 37.73 s finish at the 1999 Seville World Championships.[212][213] It is also the fastest time recorded by a team outside of the IAAF's North, Central American and Caribbean category.[214]

Personal bests

Event Time Venue Date
50 metres 5.69 seconds Liévin, France 13 February 2000
60 metres 6.42 seconds (European Record) Turin, Italy 7 March 2009
100 metres 9.97 seconds (+0.2 m/s wind) Seville, Spain 22 August 1999
200 metres 20.31 seconds (−0.6 m/s wind) London, England 22 July 2001
  • Please note: Excludes times nullified due to Chambers' positive drugs tests and subsequent ban — All information taken from IAAF profile.[1]

Competition record

Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
1998 European Championships Budapest, Hungary 2nd 100 metres
IAAF World Cup Johannesburg, South Africa 3rd 100 metres
Commonwealth Games Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 1st 4×100 metres relay
1999 European Cup Paris, France 1st 100 metres
IAAF World Championships Seville, Spain 3rd 100 metres
2nd 4×100 metres relay
2000 Olympic Games Sydney, Australia 4th 100 metres
2001 IAAF World Championships Edmonton, Canada 4th† 100 metres
Goodwill Games Brisbane, Australia 1st 100 metres
2006 British Grand Prix Gateshead, England 3rd 100 metres
European Championships Gothenburg, Sweden 7th 100 metres
1st 4×100 metres relay
2008 IAAF World Indoor Championships Valencia, Spain 2nd 60 metres
2009 European Indoor Championships Torino, Italy 1st 60 metres
European Team Championships Leiria, Portugal 1st 100 metres
1st 200 metres
IAAF World Championships Berlin, Germany 6th 100 metres
2010 IAAF World Indoor Championships Doha, Qatar 1st 60 metres
European Team Championships Bergen, Norway 1st 100 metres
European Championships Barcelona, Spain 5th 100 metres
2011 European Indoor Championships Paris, France 2nd 60 metres
  • Amended from 5th after Tim Montgomery tested positive for banned substances
  • Please note: Excludes results nullified due to Chambers' positive drugs tests and subsequent ban.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q All results, times, personal bests, records, medals or other achievements flagged with an "x" label were nullified from the record by the IAAF as they were achieved while Chambers was using banned substances.


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  203. ^ Biscayart, Eduardo (2010-05-24). Murer opens with world leading 4.75m in Rio – IAAF World Challenge. IAAF. Retrieved on 2010-06-21.
  204. ^ Biscayart, Eduardo (2010-05-31). Moore joins sub-11 club in Maringá. IAAF. Retrieved on 2010-05-31.
  205. ^ Mills, Steven (2010-06-13). Chambers wins in Istanbul. Athletics Weekly. Retrieved on 2010-06-21.
  206. ^ Minshull, Phil (2010-06-20). Chambers flies to 9.99, Russia hold pole position – European Team Champs, Day 1. IAAF. Retrieved on 2010-06-21.
  207. ^ Golden boy Lemaitre lives his dream in Barcelona. European Athletics (2010-07-29). Retrieved on 2010-07-31.
  208. ^ Kessel, Anna (2010-07-28). Mark Lewis-Francis ecstatic after capturing 100m silver medal. The Guardian. Retrieved on 2010-07-31.
  209. ^ Brown, Matthew (2011-02-13). Chambers takes fourth 60m title, teenager Williams takes her first - UK indoor championships wrap. IAAF. Retrieved on 2011-05-29.
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  214. ^ "4x100 M Relay All Time". IAAF. 2008-08-22. http://www.iaaf.org/statistics/toplists/inout=O/age=N/season=0/sex=M/all=y/legal=A/disc=4x1/detail.htmx. Retrieved 2008-08-22. 

External links

Preceded by
Switzerland André Bucher
Men's European Athlete of the Year
Succeeded by
Sweden Christian Olsson
Preceded by
Barbados Obadele Thompson
Men's World Junior Record Holder, 100 metres
25 July 1997 – 24 August 2003
Succeeded by
Trinidad and Tobago Darrel Brown

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