Dwain Chambers won the European Indoor Championships last weekend with a time of 6.42 for 60 meters-the fifth fastest on record. Chambers is constantly drug tested, and claims to be running clean. However, faster than his sixty meter race, has been the outpouring of vitriol and condemnation from writers, coaches and former athletes in the UK over some of Chamber’s allegations in the book, Race Against Me, My Story, by Dwain Chambers.
In my mind, it was time for a some verbage from Pat Butcher. Butcher, the sports columnist for the Financial Times, and an writer and observer of our sport for the past forty years. Butcher wrote a very thoughtful column, In my mind, it was time for a some verbage from Pat Butcher. Butcher, the sports columnist for the Financial Times, and an writer and observer of our sport for the past forty years. Butcher wrote a very thoughtful column, In my mind, it was time for a some verbage from Pat Butcher. Butcher, the sports columnist for the Financial Times, and an writer and observer of our sport for the past forty years. Butcher wrote a very thoughtful column, http://
The truth is, as Butcher notes, our sport has been muddied and bloodied by performance enhancing drugs, and yes, just the shadow of them, for the past forty years. Everyone is tainted. That our sport is actually responding, and I believe, for the most part, responding well and catching 95 percent of the cheats now, is progress. Progress, is a good thing, as Martha Stewart, the doyen of domestic science, notes, almost daily.
Dwain Chambers is a conundrum. On the one side, he is a young British male, who has, because of his color and tough upbringing, been handed some pretty harsh cards. On the other hand, Chambers took his positive drug test, and not only admitted his cheating, but has spoken to the authorities, in the attempt to help them figure out how he got away while they were testing him. He also is giving 25 percent of his wins to the IAAF to pay them the $175,000 he owes them from the prize money he received when he was using performance enhancing drugs.
Compare this to Marion Jones, who went on Oprah Winfrey and confessed her sins-well, kinda. Marion noted that she did not knowingly take performance enhancing drugs, and her mea culpa rang untrue. Ms. Jones also stuck her post- Trevor Graham coaches for six figures. Marion would not pass my grandfathers’ test.
One of my grandfathers, Earl Robertson, was a police officer in St. Louis, Missouri. A man of some complication, Grandpa Earl at once chastised me for my long hair, but also stopped one night, and helped a similar hairy headed young man with a flat tire, noting that it could have been his grandson. A man with a very discrete skull and cross bones tatoo on his upper arm, Grandpa Earl raced motorcylces in the late 30s, and would take my Grandma Violet and my mother, Marilu, (then, a baby) in a sidecar to the races, unbolt the sidecar and then race away the afternoons. That was, before he became a police officer, his dream job.
As a young police officer, my grandfather worked in the worst neighborhoods in a city where race was a demarcation line and stories of having toilets thrown at him from the fifth floor of a housing project were normal occurrences, not events in a police drama. This man, who I loved, but did not completely appreciate during his long life, once told me something truly profound. Grandpa Earl said that, in our society, if a man or a women admits their wrong doing, and pays the price, they should be given a second chance. That, he told me, was America, and I should always remember that.
In my mind, Dwain Chambers has paid a huge price for his honesty. I also understand that the British Olympic committee has the right to deny membership to Olympic teams to drug cheats. Marion Jones, who went to jail for other charges, not related to her drug use, still has not come to grips with her decade of deceit.
My grandfather lived in a world of black and white for survival. Early in his career, he convinced a small time hood to give himself up, noting that there might be a lot of gun-toting police officers in the neighborhood. Grandpa walked the soon-to-be incarcerated gentleman into the station by himself. Grandpa’s captain was not amused, as the young police officer had gone into a situation without back up. Near the end of his active duty, now, a much wizened police captain, Grandpa Earl walked into a domestic situation-he hated those calls-sat down, ate a sandwich with the guy, got him to release the family and give him his gun, and walked him out, as if nothing was happening. Grandpa Earl was an amazing judge of character–he worked with characters and lived with them day and night.
To say that Dwain Chambers and Marion Jones play a role in our collective sports unconscious is only partly correct. Jones continues to live in the old world, the world of hide the truth at any cost, rationalize cheating at any cost. Chambers, on the other hand, has paid the price, not only with his ban, but his subsequent odyssy, unlike Odysseus, did not end.
Dwain Chambers book is just that, a memoir, at best, gossipy at the worst, perhaps, as Butcher calls it, an apologia. In the end it is entertainment. In the end, he takes some well calculated shots at many people at the top. To suggest that there will be legal scores to be settled is an understatement.
If my grandfather were alive today, my guess is that he would tell me that he would sit down with Dwain, shake his hand, perhaps, even invite him for a beer. He might suggest that he consider working in his old neighborhood with the young tough kids, like he used to be. I do not think Grandpa Earl would speak to Marion Jones.
Dwain Chambers is not a saint. His book will show in, warts and all, that, like most of us, he has had good moments, and bad. My beef is that Dwain Chambers has the right to reveal anything about himself, however, bringing others into the gutter with him, perhaps to show that the gutter is quite full, may not serve anyone, let alone Dwain Chambers.
For more on Pat Butcher, please click http://wwwglobalrunner.org
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