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Craig Pickering remains positive as Dwain Chambers looks for way back

28 January 2008

By Rick Broadbent

The future’s bright, the future’s arranged. Craig Pickering and Simeon Williamson will fight out a fledgeling rivalry and drive each other towards an Olympic final, while Jessica Ennis will continue to try to win a medal for her mother’s birthday in August. The promise on offer at the indoor season opener in Glasgow on Saturday was clear, but the promise of a legal spat with Britain’s most infamous drug cheat festered.

Dwain Chambers is considering taking on UK Athletics (UKA) in court after being told he cannot compete in the trials for the World Indoor Championships in Valencia next month. The sprinter completed a two-year ban for taking tetra-hydrogestrinone (THG) in 2006 and ran for Britain at the European Championships that year.

However, the tidal wave of bad publicity engulfing the sport means that UKA wants to block any return. It has the rulebook on its side because the IAAF states that any athlete coming out of retirement must have been subjected to 12 months of random testing. Chambers’s last test was in November 2006 and he was removed from the out-of-competition testing register after turning his back on athletics in an ill-fated attempt to forge an American football career. His legal case will rest on his claim that he did not ask to be removed.

Niels de Vos, UKA’s chief executive, said: “We now need to ensure that when the system catches a cheat, we do not allow those cheats an easy way back into the sport.”

That is a clear, if belated, message, but Chambers’s appearance in 2006, the fact that he has served his ban and Linford Christie’s role as a UKA coach have caused some critics to accuse the governing body of inconsistency. Christie was given a two-year ban for testing positive after retiring, but always maintained his innocence, with UKA supporting his view that there was doubt over how the nandrolone got into his system. Darren Campbell, an outspoken antidrug sprinter, also backed Christie.

Chambers, who is broke and sees athletics as his only feasible livelihood, is eyeing a comeback next weekend, but the new wave of athletes are in good shape. Pickering began his season in fine form, running 6.57sec to beat Williamson, the man who ousted him at last year’s European Under-23 Championships, in the 60 metres at the Norwich Union International. “It’s a good start because you can look good in training but you never know what you’re going to be like until you get out there,” Pickering said.

It was a year ago that Pickering burst on to the scene at the same meeting, when he defeated Jason Gardener, his training partner. Now he is looking at an Olympic final and, refreshingly, has an unequivocal stance. “For a serious doping offence where there is little doubt that you knew what you were doing, you should be banned for life,” he said.

Pickering’s triumph in the final event at Kelvin Hall meant that Great Britain won the five-team meeting and there were a string of notable performances. Ennis’s family have been saving to make the trip to Beijing, where her mother will celebrate her birthday. The heptathlete, 22 today, recorded personal bests in the 60 metres hurdles and the long jump – 8.18sec and 6.33 metres respectively.

Other good wins came from Jenny Meadows in the 800 metres, Lisa Dobriskey in the 1,500 metres and Katrina Wootton, who ran a personal best of 9min 3.87sec in the 3,000 metres to secure the qualifying time for Valencia. Chris Tomlinson, Jeanette Kwakye and Richard Buck were Britain’s other winners, in the long jump, 60 metres and 400 metres.

Meseret Defar, of Ethiopia, shattered the world indoor two-mile record with a time of 9min 10.5sec at the Reebok Boston Indoor Games.

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