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Chambers earns more payback time

3 June 2006

Dwain Chambers, the disgraced European 100 metres champion, may be only four days away from his first race in nearly three years after the world governing body said here last night that it was attempting to expedite an agreement that would free him to run in Belgrade on Wednesday. Should Chambers show form there, he could make his British comeback in Gateshead next Sunday.

Caught taking steroids in 2003, Chambers later confessed to being on drugs during the year before, without realising that his admission would mean him paying back dishonestly earned income for the entire period. His suspension ended last September but his return has been delayed by the issue of how much he owes and a schedule for repaying it.

However, Pierre Weiss, the IAAF secretary, said before the opening Golden League meeting of the season at the Bislett Stadium here last night: “Chambers would like to compete on June 7 in Belgrade, and in Gateshead on the eleventh, so we are rushing to a solution.”

A key factor in fast-tracking Chambers’s return is the IAAF’s apparent willingness now to let him pay as he earns. Chambers, 28, claims not to have the money to repay any of the £100,000 he owes but Weiss indicated that he would not now be expected to reimburse a significant sum before he comes back.

“We understand that, if he has earned money in 2002 and 2003, he has spent it,” Weiss said. “Maybe he has bought a house, a car, or went to the casino, so we cannot ask him to pay back everything today.”

Chambers is understood to owe some £50,000 to UK Athletics and, as part of the process to speed up the athlete’s return, Weiss indicated that he would be allowed to deal directly with his national governing body rather than, as has hitherto been the case, through the IAAF. Not that the issue is straightforward yet.

Confusing messages are still being sent. “UK Athletics [UKA] has decided not to claim [all] the money for Dwain Chambers — it has reduced what he has to pay back,” Weiss said. But an official for UKA said: “We definitely want our money back.”

Robert Wagner, the meeting director for Belgrade, confirmed that Chambers had been entered but added that Cubie Seegobin, the athlete’s agent, had contacted him to say that he would not be coming because he could see no immediate solution to the repayment issue. Wagner acknowledged that Chambers may yet run but added: “I cannot hold a lane forever.”

The situation demands that Weiss and David Moorcroft, the UKA chief executive, who has been on holiday this week, conduct an urgent conversation to resolve the matter. Fast Track, which promotes the domestic televised events on behalf of UKA, is now keen to add Chambers to its 100 metres start list for the British Grand Prix at Gateshead after the withdrawal of Justin Gatlin.

Originally concerned that Chambers’s return would overshadow a race between the joint world record-holders, Gatlin and Asafa Powell, now there is a view within Fast Track that his comeback would rejuvenate interest. Britain’s need for a competitive 100 metres runner was underlined at the Bislett Games where Jason Gardener, Mark Lewis-Francis and Marlon Devonish all failed to reach the final, won by Powell.

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