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Dwain Chambers interview

16 January 2007

Dwain Chambers embarked on the latest stage in his bid to become a professional American Footballer last weekend.

The former European 100m lined up alongside dozens of other hopefuls for a two-day NFL Europe training camp in Barcelona.

BBC sports correspondent James Munroe travelled to the Spanish city on Saturday and watched the Briton train.

He then talked to the sprinter about his dream of becoming an NFL star, the end of his love affair with athletics and the lows he went through after being exposed as a drugs cheat.

James Munroe: How did it go out there?
Dwain Chambers: Today it went really well. I was really pleased with my performance and overall it was a good experience.

When do you find out if you've made it to the next stage of NFL Europe (which will be a training camp in Tampa, Florida, in March)?
Some point on Wednesday (17 January).

What are your ambitions with American Football?
First of all, to succeed. It's something I always loved as a child and it's an opportunity to come out here and play a sport I've always loved.

What would constitute success for you in American Football?
To be picked for an NFL Europe team and then hopefully go on and become an NFL American Footballer. That would be a big fulfilment for me.

Many would say that is an impossible dream.
I'm not going into this half-heartedly. I've got the speed, I've got the talent. I just need to show that I'm capable of going out and playing this tough sport.

I've taken a lot of hits and you've got to get back up and keep on fighting.

How different is this from being an athlete in an individual sport?
I'm used to playing a team role with the 4 x 100m relay team.

To come here and be one of many is not that difficult. I can still shine in terms of my role as a wide receiver, but playing as a group member is something I'm looking forward to.

How big a challenge is going into a new sport and trying to make it?
It's a tough challenge for anybody, not just me. That's why I'm pursuing it. It's a new challenge and it's making me smile, I'm happy.

Unfortunately with track, my heart's not in it at the moment.

Why aren't you happy in track?
It's something I've always loved, but at the moment it's putting a bad taste in my mouth.

For me to want to come back and be successful in track I have to go away for a while, build up my self-esteem again and come back to fighting ways.

Have we seen the last of you as an athlete?
No, not at all. I'm still an athlete at heart, but I'm just going to put my athletic ability into American Football for a while.

It all depends on how far I go with American Football. If I make it to Tampa, you can definitely say that I won't be running track for at least this year.

If I don't, I'll be preparing for Osaka (the Japanese city where the World Athletics Championships will be held in August).

Can you focus on the World Athletics Championships at all?
At the moment I'm not focusing on it. I can't focus on track and try and catch the ball, because I'll get my backside busted.

I'm just going to focus on this and have fun here.

So this isn't about the money for you?
Not at all. I've lasted three years without any money but I've got the heart and passion to want to succeed.

I've started from the bottom before with track and field and I'm going to start from the bottom here with NFL and make it to the top, as I believe I can.

How difficult have the last three years been for you?
It's been difficult, but the good positive thing is I've got a family, I've got a son, and that's my motivation.

I've just got to carry that motivation onto the field and be the best I can.

If I didn't have that stability at home I would've been on the streets, doing who knows what.

I wouldn't even want to imagine what I'd be doing. I've got that stability at home and that's the most crucial thing for me.

If your home life's right, then your life will be right. That's been a huge stepping stone in my life at the moment.

Did admitting you had taken drugs for some time take the pressure off you?
It allowed me to sleep at night. If people ask me what I did during that time, I can look in your eyes and tell you the truth.

In all walks of life, honesty is the best policy. If you're going to go out and take that chance with your career, you're going to see what happens.

You looked like you're enjoying yourself. We haven't seen that for a long time.
If you noticed, I'm smiling and that's good for me. Being happy is going to allow me perform how I want to perform.

You didn't feel fulfilled in athletics last year then?
No, not at all. I was coming back to a sport I haven't been involved in for the past two and a half, three years, and it just felt strange to me, foreign.

It was nice to be back and get the gold medal for the guys I lost through default.

I've paid my dues and I'd still like to get back to track and field, but I'm just going to work on this now and see how things progress.

I've got the drive in my heart and I believe I can come out and run as fast as I have in the past if not better.

The experience is going to carry me through. Yes, I've had two or three years off, but its rested me.

I feel much more optimistic, rejuvenated and that's a big thing.

What's the greatest challenge for you now?
To succeed in American Football... that's all that matters.

Have you got something to prove?
People are going to have great expectations of me, I don't expect anything other than going out there and proving I can compete against the best.

I'm not ashamed to talk to people about what's happened. I've told the truth and can walk with my head up high.

Have you told UK Athletics what your plans are?
Not really. We're not in any verbal agreement. If things don't go how I want to in American Football, I'll come back to track, try to do the best I can and then come back to American Football next year.

What's the situation with the prize money that you owe back to UK Athletics and the IAAF? (Chambers must repay prize money he won while taking the banned steroid THG from future track earnings)
I'm not allowed to go into detail about that situation. I've got to pay back the money that I've earned.

On the track its going to be very difficult. I'd basically be going out there and running for free.

I wouldn't expect anyone in their right mind to go out and work for free. I've just got to figure out another way of earning money and hopefully repay my debts.

Are you confident you can get back to the form that saw you run 10.07 seconds last season (at the British Grand Prix in Gateshead in June)?
It's going to be difficult. American Football training is totally different to athletics training. You've got to do a lot more short and quicker stuff.

You've got to use your head and not just your feet.

What would you like people to think of you?
Think of a guy who's got a lot of character and use me as an example of someone who has been knocked down can get back up and fight.

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