British sprint legend Darren Campbell has called on the World Anti-Doping Agency to pay more attention to the opinions of athletes following the organisation’s successful legal challenge to Britain’s lifetime Olympic ban for drugs cheats.
The British Olympic Association’s hard-line stance was last month ruled non-compliant by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, a judgement that means competitors who had previously been precluded by the BOA’s policy can now compete at London 2012.
That includes Campbell’s old sparring partner Dwain Chambers, who was suspended for two years between 2003-05 after testing positive for a range of steroids, an offence that also saw the World and European 4x100m medals they won together expunged from the record books.
Campbell and Chambers have had a difficult relationship since, most publicly when in 2006 the Mancunian refused to do a lap of honour with Chambers after they won the European relay title in Gothenburg.
But there has been a rapprochement, Chambers has reformed and does a lot of outreach for the anti-drugs lobby and Campbell accepts there was an inequity in the BOA’s viewpoint when set in a global context.
While Chambers and cyclist David Miller initially found themselves excluded from this summer’s Games, the twice banned former Olympic and world champion Justin Gatlin, although his first positive test for amphetamines was overturned in 2001, and his compatriot LeShawn Merritt were deemed to have served their punishment and are available for selection by the USA.
But rather than applauding the fact the BOA has been brought in line with a unified policy, the 38-year-old says the British standpoint should have been adopted by WADA and the more severe sanction applied worldwide.
“There are going to be American and other athletes who are going to be allowed to compete so it’s kind of unfair that ten from the UK would not have been allowed to compete – although it’s pretty ironic that we are talking about fairness when it comes to drugs cheats,” said Campbell who, with his Athens relay gold, will be a welcome guest at the Body Power Expo in Birmingham tomorrow.
Campbell will be launching his new post-exercise drink Daionic at the National Exhibition Centre, the latest product of the company he set up with nutritionist Jon Williams.
“It’s about time that people who make these decisions listen to how athletes feel and make it a life ban because it would be a big deterrent,” he continued.
“The Olympics only come around every four years and athletes dedicate everything they do to being successful so to have that taken away would be massive. It’s not about any individual or how you feel about them, it’s about what is right. Athletes train six or seven days a week, between two and eight hours a day to try and excel at an Olympic Games.
“I have been in the situation when I got my Olympic silver medal [in Sydney in 2000] and in some people’s eyes the person that beat me should be banned.
“I am fortunate that I got my Olympic gold [four years later] but for some people they won’t get another shot.
“It’s alright saying you might get your gold years later through the post but you only have to look at the last day of the Premier League season to see that when amazing things happen you can’t control the emotion – you go crazy. But you’re not going to go crazy just getting your gold medal through the post.
“These are once in a lifetime things, it’s not just about winning the race, it’s about the lap of honour, standing on the podium, the adulation, the emotion, the memories that stay with you forever. No-one should be deprived of that if they deserve it.”
Indeed it would be difficult to stomach for many if the disgraced Gatlin takes the 100m crown in London.
Gatlin returned to the sport in 2010 after serving a four-year suspension, for testing positive for testosterone, but failed to make the final at the World Championships in Daegu last August.
However, he won the World Indoor 60m title earlier this year and beat Asafa Powell over 100m in Doha last week in the third fastest time of the year.
That run of 9.87 seconds puts him just a fraction behind Usain Bolt and world champion Yohan Blake and promises a fascinating contest later this summer.
Indeed Chambers has not even run the qualifying standard yet and he will have to do that, beat off several young compatriots and finish in the top two at the trials to even gain selection.
“Not many people recall this but I was one of the first athletes when Dwain got caught who said it was not solely his fault and that I would forgive him if he righted the wrong,” Campbell said.
“Yes he did it but he was led down that path by people who did not tell him the right things, he was young, he was naive and he paid the price.
“When I got upset with him was when he came back into the sport and it was like nothing had ever happened and he gave an interview saying the only way to win an Olympic gold was to cheat.
“But he has looked at himself and he has been advised differently. He apologised to the team which is important if people are to move on.
“And we have spoken, he has apologised and he has made an effort to put it right, he has gone into schools to pass his experience on to young people and explained about the pitfalls of doing what he did.”