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Victor Conte: ‘A lot of liars are kicking Dwain Chambers and speaking of zero tolerance’

15 February 2008

Victor Conte Victor Conte
If there is one person who knows how Dwain Chambers feels, it is the man who gave him the “full enchilada” of drugs before becoming sport’s most infamous whistle-blower. Victor Conte has served time in jail and been labelled a pariah, but he launched a stinging attack on what he regards as the hate, hypocrisy and hubris of British athletics before explaining what led the most talented runner of a generation to cheat.

“It’s disgusting what is happening to Dwain,” Conte, the founder of the notorious Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (Balco), in northern California, said. “We still speak regularly and I tell him that he can’t crawl under a rock and stay there. I spoke to him before and after his win at the trials last weekend. He’s using me as an example of how to get through this and make something of his life.”

Some will view Conte as a discredited figure, given his four-month sentence for supplying drugs, but he has since met Dick Pound, the departing president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, given information to the United States Anti-Doping Agency and been vindicated in naming and shaming Marion Jones.

Conte claims that he was supplying Chambers with legal supplements from his new company, SNAC, last year and believes that his friend is being singled out because of the remarks he made in a BBC interview, suggesting that it was almost impossible to win an Olympic final if clean. “A lot of people who are coming out and kicking Dwain and speaking about zero tolerance are liars,” Conte said. “A lot of them have been on drugs. The Olympics are a fraud. People need to wake up.”

Conte does not feel guilt over Chambers’s fall from grace, despite admitting giving him “the full enchilada: the ‘clear’, insulin, EPO, growth hormone, modafinil and a testosterone cream I’d started using that didn’t show up on standard drug screens”.

Instead, he explained why a clean athlete who had set a world junior record for the 100 metres and ran 9.97sec at the 1999 World Championships would decide to take drugs. In 2002, Chambers left his coach, Mike McFarlane, and decided to go to the United States to see why they produced the world’s best sprinters.

According to Conte, it was a dark epiphany. “Make no mistake, this was an extremely talented athlete before he ever met me,” Conte said. “But he came here and got his eyes opened. You can blame him if you want, but he did not seek it out. He just realised there were two sets of rules — the handbook rules and the real rules. He came to me and was, like, ‘So this is what Marion Jones does?’

“I know Dwain and he is full of remorse and pain. He did wrong, but I’ve dealt with a lot of people who are not nice, they’re dishonest and they steal — Dwain’s not like that. But it’s a fight in the jungle and when the overwhelming majority of top-end athletes are doing it, well . . . ”

When Chambers made his comeback at the Birmingham Games a fortnight ago, he offered his help in teaching young athletes the perils of cheating. “If you want to catch a thief, hire a thief,” he said.

Conte believes that the best people to lead the fight against the drugs problem are those with inside knowledge. It is why he met Pound in New York in December. “I told him how it works,” Conte said. “We’re very alike. He’s the greatest self-appointed cat in the game and I’m the greatest mouse. We defined the dimensions of the hole and I told him how to plug it.”

Those dimensions are frightening if you believe Conte and his newfound evangelicalism. “There is no [effective] test for insulin, T3 thyroid medication, blood-doping, growth hormone,” he said. “Before Balco, they did 80 per cent of testing in competition and 20 per cent out of competition, but the fact is you have to be pretty stupid to get caught at an event — that’s not a drug test, it’s an IQ test because they taper off ten days beforehand.

“Testing that way meant athletes could load up with drugs from October to February and the benefits would last the entire season. Now it’s more like 50-50, but it should be 80-20 the other way, so they target people when they’re doing their strength work.”

Conte has also called for transparency regarding missed tests, which he believes are widely exploited, and questioned why they are not made public. “You take into account how often you’re tested and it’s probably 25-1 that they’ll want you on any given day,” he said. “Most athletes would take those odds. They play with the rules.”

The reaction to Chambers’s call-up to the Great Britain team this week for the World Indoor Championships in Valencia, some 18 months after his first return was greeted by a ripple of opprobrium, has angered Conte. “Why won’t UK Athletics [UKA] use Dwain as an example of what not to do, like he’s offered?” he said. “He’s an eyewitness, he was at the scene. He could be a major positive in the fight against doping, but instead there’s all this hate, hate, hate. What sort of example is that? I know for a fact that behind the scenes Dwain has influenced others [about not doping].

“It might not be to his benefit for me to say this, but I respect Dwain Chambers as a man,” Conte said. “I honestly think he will go down as a historic figure because he’s bigger than all this ridicule and hostility. He has more internal fortitude than the lot of them [at UKA].”

Conte’s allegation of hypocrisy is hard to discount if UKA is making a moral issue out of Chambers. The selection of Carl Myerscough, the shot-putter who served a two-year doping ban, for the World Indoor Championships team was validated by the nebulous defence of him having remained committed to the sport.

Chambers has been drug-tested twice in the past month and is on the out-of-competition register. According to Conte, he has also given information to anti-doping authorities. “He has lived the life of a drug cheat and is more qualified than anyone to speak about the issue, but the UK has turned its back on him,” Conte said. “He’s trying to make amends and I guarantee that if he had his time over, he would not take drugs. He did it because he thought it was the only way.”

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