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Powell plans to set record straight and take world by storm

7 June 2006

By David Powell

Dwain Chambers will appear in the Norwich Union British Grand Prix in Gateshead on Sunday, albeit perhaps in name only. An official yesterday put the likelihood of Chambers making his return from a drugs ban in the 100 metres at 50-50, but whether or not the Briton runs, Asafa Powell, the joint world record-holder, will have him in his sights.

In London yesterday, Powell gave his opinions on Chambers in particular and British sprinting in general, on Justin Gatlin’s controversial world record, on his rivalry with the American, on doping and on why he expects to be the undisputed world’s fastest human by the end of the year. But first, Chambers’s track record at Gateshead.

Powell said that, regardless of what the weather might hold, he cannot imagine himself failing to break ten seconds. After four successive sub-ten-second runs and an unbeaten streak of ten races, he is high on confidence. “I am looking for sub-tens all year, including Sunday,” Powell said.

That would mean the removal of Chambers’s stadium record mark of 10.05sec, set in 1999. How many more of the disgraced Briton’s performances are living on borrowed time remains to be seen as the IAAF is still pondering which races he is to be disqualified from in 2002 and 2003.

Chambers will surely lose his medals and records from 2003 for failing a drugs test that summer, but his subsequent admission that he was taking steroids in 2002 means that he is likely, in addition, to lose the European title he won that year. The confession also prompted the IAAF to insist that he return dishonestly earned prize-money, an issue that has delayed his return.

Although Chambers’s drugs ban ended last September, he is involved in a protracted battle with the IAAF, and with UK Athletics, over a repayment schedule for returning the estimated £100,000 he owes. It had been hoped that this would be resolved in time for him to race in Belgrade tonight, so that he could prove his fitness and earn a lane for Sunday.

Now, though, Fast Track, which promotes the Gateshead meeting, has softened from its original insistence that Chambers show form beforehand. Jon Ridgeon, Fast Track’s head of athletics, cited two reasons: time is running out and there are lanes still to fill after Gatlin’s withdrawal. “We still have no word whether Dwain is eligible,” Ridgeon said. “I would say it is 50-50 [that he will run].”

Chambers is lucky to have another chance, according to Powell. “Athletes should be banned for life,” he said when asked whether Chambers’s two-year suspension for a first offence had been appropriate. But Powell has been impressed by Chambers in training in Jamaica. “He is looking good, back to normal,” Powell said.

The prospect of Chambers regaining the British No 1 position looms large with national men’s sprinting at a 20-year low but Powell, mindful of Great Britain’s gold-medal relay run in the 2004 Athens Olympics, is not prepared to write them off. “The British runners have always been good athletes,” he said.

The Jamaican added that Gatlin’s run in Doha, where he equalled Powell’s world record of 9.77sec, was “suspicious”, doubting the wind reading. Not that it will matter for long. “I am the fastest man in the world and I am going to prove it this year,” Powell said, adding that he would “probably” run 9.70.

Powell and Gatlin were due to face each other at Gateshead before the American withdrew and they are now scheduled to meet at the London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace on July 28.

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