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Siza Agha

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Why the Public Should Support Dwain Chambers

Posted: 11/03/2012 23:00

The morning after the night before. I sit here on my hotel balcony in Istanbul, gazing at the horizon meeting the sea, wondering what will unfold over the next few weeks as Dwain's running career and entire future will be determined, not by championships, titles and medals, but off the track by a distinguished panel of world arbitrator's view of a British sporting authorities vigorous defence of a bye-law in a court room somewhere in London, commencing today.

I sit reflecting, almost with a degree of jealousy, on how there has been a complete contrast in the treatment of Dwain to other athletes around the world that could not have been underscored more as Justin Gatlin took the title in the World Indoor Championship 60 meters, Dwain achieving the bronze.

The American press celebrated his achievement with glowing patriotism attached to every journalistic syllable, the US Athletics Federation fully and actively support him, he has corporate backing, he competed in the Diamond League several times last year and has been almost fully integrated back into the sport following a return from a four year ban, two years ago.

In not one American publication this morning do I see the phrase "drugs cheat" ascribed to Justin Gatlin. It is plain that the American view, which I firmly share, is that he has served his penalty, done his time and he should be permitted to move on, to re-establish his life and athletics career.

In complete polar contrast, Dwain returned from a two year ban seven years ago. He admitted his guilt, he assisted the authorities, but he does not have the support of his own Federation UKA and indeed the BOA. The only time he gets to compete in front of the British public is at the trials for major championships, he is not invited to the Grand Prix meetings in the UK by his own Federation (and consequently other Grand Prix's), he has to prepare for Major Championships away from the premium events and the phrase "drugs cheat" still punctuates press reports, despite the unhappy chapter happening the best part of a decade ago.

It is beyond any argument that Dwain Chambers has achieved his standing as a world class sprinter despite opposition and obstacles thrown in his path at every given moment by the very people in charge of his sport in the United Kingdom. The post race interviews last night demonstrated again that despite his burdens, he conducts himself with a degree of humility and dignity of world, ambassadorial and Olympic Champion proportions.

Perhaps the most hurtful and insulting comment I have read for a long time was from a British journalist who wrote that "Chambers failed to defend..."

In the light of the above I am astonished that a member of the British press regards a bronze medal in a World Championship, the top European placing, ahead of champions from several countries (including the US athlete with the worlds leading time this year) as a "failure" as opposed to an "incredible achievement against all the odds".

Again in contrast the Turkish athlete who yesterday "achieved" a bronze in the women's 1500, is a national hero, got a standing ovation during and after the race from the public and swooned over, quite rightly, in the press this morning. I ask rhetorically is Great Britain such a world force in athletics that we regard a bronze medal as failure in one of the most premium and most competitive events? Or could it be the obsession of some journalist's desire to put a negative gloss on anything they write about Dwain Chambers?

If it is the latter then that particular journalist may have missed last Thursday's television production showing the sort of work that Dwain has been doing for over two years in schools, academies, colleges and other platforms all over the UK and Europe. It will have been seen first hand and perhaps for the first time the way Dwain reaches out, influences and inspires children and young adults through his incredible and compelling story. I am filled to the brim with disappointment at the way those in authority and indeed certain members of the press do not see the message of redemption and positivity that Dwain now represents. In my view they are doing a disservice to Dwain, the country, the public and indeed sport in general.

Having had a unique insight into Dwain and his situation, I honestly believe that we have not seen the best of Dwain Chambers. At present it's a bit like Andy Murray preparing to meet the top three players in a grand slam championship doing satellite tournaments. If that were the level of his preparation then one would excuse him if an occasion got to him and he were to double fault at a crucial point in the game. In order to get the best out of an athlete, they need to compete against the best on a regular basis. Dwain is denied that opportunity and we will only see the best of him if he is placed on a level playing field, rather than the disadvantaged position in which he finds himself.

If this strikes a chord with you, please respond to this blog and voice your support for Dwain. All he really wants to do is to proudly wear a British vest, in his home town, in his own county this summer. If that happens, then in view of my knowledge of the journey that he has had to travel, there will be no-one prouder than I of the achievement of simply being on the start line, irrespective of what happens thereafter.

 
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