Duncan Mackay: I have been here before

Duncan Mackay

altBy Duncan Mackay - 21 March 2009

I am currently in Berlin covering the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Council meeting, which is being held in the Inter Continental hotel and its feels like I have been transported back in time.



That is because the last time the Council met in this city was at this very hotel in October 2003 and top of the agenda then was Dwain Chambers. A couple of weeks previously I had exclusively revealed the news that the British sprinter had tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid THG and his name was on the lips of everyone in the sport.



Fast forward six years and nothing has changed, it appears. The question in the hotel lobby everyone - from Sebastian Coe, who is a vice-president of the IAAF to the journalists covering the meeting - is: "How do you solve a problem like Dwain?" His newly published book, Race Against Me, has been like a hand grenade dropped on the sport.


The lurid description about the extent of his drug-taking in the years between 2001 and 2003, and how easily he avoided detection have upset many. So have his allegations that half the United States team that competed in the Olympics at Beijing last year had either taken drugs or were still using them. Then there are the personal attacks on leading figures like Coe, Colin Moynihan and Niels de Vos.


altHe has certainly not set out to win friends and influence people. Which is fine - this is after all his story and his version of what happened - except that Chambers still wants to have a future in the sport. And it is therefore no surprise that those people running athletics are not exactly falling over themselves to help him achieve that.


The IAAF are particularly upset because they feel that they have done everything they can to help rehabilitate the disgraced Briton. Lamine Diack, the organisation's President, even spoke out on behalf of Chambers last year when UK Athletics were trying to freeze him out and they have allowed him the opportunity to give back the prize and appearance money he fraudlently won while he was taking drugs on a pay as he earns basis.


Their argument is if Chambers, as he keeps claiming, now wants to be a force for good why does he keep conjuring up such unhelpful headlines for a sport that is struggling to retain the hearts and minds of the public, jaded by so many drugs scandals involving its heroes?


The final straw was insidethegames' story last week that Chambers has resumed a working relationship with Victor Conte, the man who had supplied him with the cocktail of drugs in the first place. Chambers claims that they are determined to put right what they did wrong and are now working on a revolutionary new technique that involves him alternately breathing low and high oxygen air through a hypoxicator in a techinque that causes the body to begin creating its own Erythropoietin (EPO), the hormone that stimulates red blood cell production.


People are naturally suspicious of how Chambers is now managing to run faster now than he did before when he had enough rocket fuel in his body to power him to the moon. No other athlete coming back from a drugs ban has managed that before so it is natural that people want to know how come Chambers can do it. He can have no complaints about that, especially now he has again started working with Conte.


The ironic thing is, that the amount of people here who have actually read the book that has got Chambers into so much new trouble, is a very small minority indeed. Coe, for example, whose private life is the subject of so many pages had not seen a copy until I showed him mine. I hope that the money Chambers received for writing the book is worth the aggravation it is now causing him.


The only thing we can certain of is Dwain Chambers' name will still be on people's lips for a while yet.


Duncan Mackay is the publisher and editor of insidethegames.com. He was the 2004 British Sports Journalist of the Year and was the athletics correspondent of The Guardian for 11 years. He was the writer that exposed Dwain Chambers as a drugs cheat

Dwain ought to understand that if you do a kiss 'n tell you can't
then expect to cuddle up with the one you have kissed and told
By Tanya Mills, Glasgow

21 March 2009 at 13:20pm

I met the guy and bought the book. Having sat on the fence for a
while, I was completely won over by Dwain. He is totally
approachable and upfront and the book is a revelation in more
ways than one! I think the hypocrisy with which Dwain has been
treated, while others have been given the wink-wink-nudge-nudge
treatment is disgraceful. He is a phenomenal athlete and a nice
guy who made a bad mistake but one that he's learned much from
and moved on, which is more than you can say for his critics. I
look forward to see him competing again soon.
By Dwain fan, St Albans

21 March 2009 at 13:51pm

One thing that has come to the foreground for me is the level of
hypocrisy and dissembling in the sport. Chambers has become a
whipping post , while others have slipped quietly under the
radar. UK Athletics have conveniently turned a blind eye to these
athletes, while continuing to wipe their feet on Chambers. What
happened to equity and fairness of treatment? I bought the book -
it's a real eye-opener.
By Kris, Bristol

21 March 2009 at 16:21pm

I read Dwain's book and found it to be thought-provoking. It does
make you look at things with different eyes. It seems to me that
they are preparing to shoot the messenger because they don't like
the news he is telling them.
By Jon Bailey, Birmingham

21 March 2009 at 16:55pm

Perhaps if the press stopped writing about Dwain Chambers drugs
at every opportunity they get it might not be such a big story.
Then we could all get on with it.
By Wolfgang Kuntz, Zurich

22 March 2009 at 08:34am

If Diack doesn't want Chambers to associate with Conte why
doesn't he just ban him? Surely that is in his power. This circus
is getting very boring now and I agree with Wolfgang that it is
being fuelled by the press.
By Marti Dibteth, Sydney

22 March 2009 at 19:22pm

Sadly, it appears we now watch sport for entertainment and to be
amazed - perhaps we don't really want to know the magician's
secrets or that our films/opening ceremonies (?!) rely on
"performace enhancement" aka special effects.

We still want to believe in heroes and those who can beat the
odds. Perhaps that is why there is a ground swell of popular
opinion behind Dwain - he has become the representative of
"everyman". The flawed hero that the establishment have come to
"hate" who in spite of all that is thrown at him keeps on going.

Perhaps their worst nightmare is that he keeps winning not only
races but newspaper copy.

Conte or not, let him compete, pay his dues to the IAAF and
either prove that it can be done clean - a win. Or simply lose
enough races so that the situation will go away for the
establishment (another win?)

Time to put the pin back in the grenade - the only explosion
should be on the track.
By Dr Rob Dawson

23 March 2009 at 19:18pm

David Sparkes: We will do all we can to get water polo to London 2012

Recent cutbacks at UK Sport have meant there is a massive financial hole to fill if Britain is to qualify two teams for the water polo tournament at the London 2012 Olympics.

We are working on it all the time and are speaking to the parents of the players who have offered to try to raise money, which is fantastically helpful. We are also liasing with the British Olympic Association, London 2012 and UK Sport on their Team 2012 project which we hope will yield something.

Then there is our recent sponsorship deal with British Gas - we will put some of that money into water polo. We are looking at other ways of bridging the gap and British Swimming is determined that we will do everything we can to get enough money to get the two teams to London.

But, I’m going to say this, categorically, our piroirity is the women’s water polo team. That is because the women are closer to the medal zone. On that basis we want to support them. They are doing well. There are only eight teams that will compete in London and, frankly, the women are more likely to succeed. The men, because it is a professional game in Mediterranean Europe and standards are so high, they are not so far advanced. I think they could have been there and it would have been close if they had had the opportunity to have the full funding.

But when your funding has been cut by 75 per cent the reality is that you have to make some tough decisions. We will do our best for the men but what I am saying is that when the chips are down it is the women that are getting the priority. The men know that and they understand that.

I think if we could raise around £3 million between now and 2012 we might stand a fighting chance of getting both teams to London. The hole is currently £4 million but I think with a bit of smart work we can do it. The task to deliver two teams to London is enornmous, it really is on a 75 per cent in budget. It is a really tough ask, I know that.

We are going to take some of the money we are due to get from UK Sport early and we are going to put some money of our own into the programme. But we have to be careful because what I do not want to happen is to get to 2010 and fall off the edge of a cliff. So what I am going to try to do is eke out the money a little bit and, as more hopefully flows into the system, we will do everything we can to move it along.

I think water polo is a great game. It is perhaps not as well known in Britain as some of the other team games but we invented the sport and we won the Olympic gold medals in 1900, 1908, 1912 and 1920 - the first four occasions the sport was contested at the Games. We have a fantastic record in the sport. It is a game that we should be competing in in at London in 2012. There is no question in mind of that.

It is disappointing that we are in this position but I understand as to why where we are here. It is our job now to challenge and we will do it. One way or another, we will do it, I promise you of that.

David Sparkes is the chief executive of British Swimming. Since taking over in 1994 he has built up to the sport up to a position where it now employs 300 people and has an annual turnover of £32 million.


The news that I have just read about Nick Hume resigning is a
disaster. He had steered the programme brilliantly and we were
beginning to make real progress. I hope UK Sport is happy with
By Disillusioned sports fan

21 March 2009 at 13:22pm

It is now time for David Sparkes to show that he really means it
when he says "We will do it" meaning getting both teams to the
games. The men need his wholehearted support and encouragement
rather than constantly being told that the women are better than
them. Is he trying to break their spirit in the hope that many
will drift away leaving him looking blameless? If the men aren't
there in 2012 then the revolution will undoubtedly happen. So
sorry Nick Hume has gone too.
By Concerned

21 March 2009 at 13:51pm

As ususal British Sport is upside down and its own worst enenmy!
We seem to be more concerned with administration and management
than by performance and looking after our athletes. The Water
polo program began brightly with 2 world class coaches, great
facilities and a fully committed support team. 2 years later,
following best ever performances from the junior teams and
creditable early performances from BOTH squads, the well
respected mens Head Coach is long gone, moral is at an all time
low, the programme is directionless and without the world class
support needed to push it on. The right decisions have not been
made. British Swimming need to be honest with the athletes and
themselves. Make a commitment and do it properly, put their momey
into the athletes not the adminstrators, accept nothing but the
best. Quickly.

22 March 2009 at 18:41pm

Is the Olympics the be all and end all?

I realise for some the attendance at the olympics will be the
supreme pinnacle of their career but what of the future? The next
generation of British Water Polo is being totally decimated,
ignored and bled dry. No funding, no strategy, no competition and
no support. The legacy of the olympics for water polo will be
less than nil, it will be totally detrimental.

A long term strategy needs to be formulated and put into action
now. We need a future for water polo and not just a quick all
consuming foray at a 'free entry'. Take the money and build a
future not a straw house.

The present situation is such: spend on the olympics and have no
future, or spend on building the future and have a long and
prosperous one.

To paraphrase: Never before in the field of sport have so few
been so detrimental to so many.
By What Future

23 March 2009 at 23:46pm

At last someone with some sense (What Future)

We need to look to the future of waterpolo in the long term and
not just to 2012. If we can get teams into the Olympics all good
and well, but not at the expense of the sport throughout Britain.
There are players who need support in all 4 countries who train
week in week out because they love the sport and want to be the
best they can. Through lack of funding in many regions athletes
and clubs have had to curtail their aspirations and development.
The athletes who are the future following 2012 are being ignored
and put on the back burner in the hope of getting a team to the
Olympics. Do we in all honesty have a chance of a medal or do we
need to put all our efforts into building a secure future for the
sport? A sport where everyone involved benefits and we end up
building teams that are competitive in Europe and at World level
before thinking of tackling the Olympics simply because we have a
'free entry'.
By name

24 March 2009 at 16:39pm

Every aspect of water polo, from mini and junior level right up
to the Olympic programme needs financial support. It's no good
funding the foundations of a sport if there is not a well run and
well financed pinnacle to aim for. The athletes in both GB squads
deserve the chance to play in the Olympics, they are doing it
because they are proud to be British and want to represent their
country in the greatest sporting event in the world, they are
obviously not doing it for the money!
By Build a Legacy

24 March 2009 at 19:22pm

as usual us brits just bend over and take it up the
proverbial....!!!we all know sparkes could`nt give a monkeys
about water-polo.please remind me??is this  OUR OLYMPICS.our
chance to incite young people away from booze,junk food,drugs and
no sport,towards respect and self-esteem.the olympics should not
be money and medals,but participation and mutual respect.
WHY is BRITISH SWIMMING NOT making up the funds necessary to
allow both our teams to be competitive for 2012.uksport was never
the only source of income!!!certainly before the bid was won the
asa funded the national junior and youth teams, WHY NO
david sparkes if you are not capable of doing your job FULLY
you should step down and stop filling YOUR pockets
it is a BIG shame water-polo cannot become independant of the
burocracy that has become the asa/b.s.
disrespectfully yours
the father of a disillusioned athlete
By father of a passionate

24 March 2009 at 20:48pm

I totally understand the sentiments expressed above. It is very
concerning that there seems to be no athlete pathway for the
young people who will benefit from the money being poured in at
the grass root level. The whole thing is topsy tervy and sadly
the athletes are at the bottom of the pile. I just hope that Mr
Sparkes will read and take notice of all the comments. Somehow I
doubt it.
By Concerned

25 March 2009 at 11:12am

What Future is more or less bang on with comments about the
Olympics. Run properly by the right people, with realistic
funding, the sport could compete at the highest level - it's just
that it will almost certainly take longer than 3 years. This
obsession with 2012 has started to have a negative effect. Some
people have just been seduced by the prospect of getting
themselves or their kids to these Olympics. As it happens, just
pumping more money into the current system to be administered by
the present regime wouldn't be the answer. Either way the whole
thing is a complete shambles. There is every likelihood that the
sport will fall apart post 2012 even if 2 teams compete. In the
meantime Mr. Sparkes is embarking on his own personal PR
campaign. When his voice was really needed in December and
January, the silence was deafening. The stuff above is just
nonsense. It's got to the point where if he said it's Wednesday
today, I'd check the calendar.
By Ged

25 March 2009 at 19:20pm

Right, let us ask the question; Mr Sparkes, The ASA, British
Water Polo, are you the today people or the tomorrow people? The
Today people are here today, gone tomorrow. The Tomorrow people
are here today and tomorrow, and the next day and forever. Mr
Sparkes you are not a figure head and the ASA/British Water Polo
are not a get-together, you are a responsible person and an
organisation to promote and benefit the sport you represent, SO

The abject failure to produce a strategy for the longevity of
water polo is appalling. The lack of support and funding at grass
roots level, at regional, at national academy and youth level is
disgusting. The ‘O’ event has become all consuming: it is the
panacea to nothing and the endemic problem to everything.

I realise people may think I’m being negative but I’m a realist,
I’m for the future of water polo, I’m for success and a sporting
prosperous future. The flash in the pan isn’t worth it. Let us
build and create a brilliant future. Let us invest in an
infrastructure for all our athletes, current and future, to
enable us to compete on the international stage now and forever.

Let us lift our heads out of the abyss and look at the prospects
and possibilities. We have funding, not for an Olympics but
possible for a future. Let us use this money to build the
infrastructure and from this spring board we can launch ourselves
to a higher level. We can and will compete with the best of the
world, but it can only come from the best of foundations.
By What Future

26 March 2009 at 02:23am

Firstly I would like to congratulate British Swimming on their
recent sponsorship deal and I hope a small proportion of it will
find its way to help the GB Mens Team to the Olympics in 2012 as
well as the Ladies' Team.

Some young men have completely put on hold their personal plans
for the immediate future to move to Manchester to pursue their
dream of taking part in their Olympics - they have struggled
financially and now to have the prospect of the rug being taken
from under their feet is just not fair.
How can we as a nation that brought Water Polo to the Olympics
now not send two teams to our home Olympics?  It is absolutely
disgraceful and now we have lost Nick Hume who at least was
trying to put water polo back on the map.

Water polo is so poorly funded that recognition of it as a sport
barely exists in Scotland and yet there are Scottish players in
the Junior GB squad - it they had the facilities available to
them that exist in some centres in England there could be so many
more.  Recently an Edinburgh University squad made it to the
finals of the BUCS Championships - not many of them had even
played in a 30m pool before!

Please can we raise the awareness of water polo by getting two
teams to our Olympics even though it may be already too late for
many of our young men who play the game passionately and want to
put their time into the game even through refereeing or
By Mother of another disappointed player

26 March 2009 at 17:15pm

In response to What Future, although I totally agree with the
need to build foundations and have a long term strategy to keep
British WP competitive at the highest international level, we
NEED 2 teams in the Olympics. The only way to promote the sport
and get more people playing it is to get exposure at the top
level (eg national team) at the olympics. Obviously our only
realistic chance of ever competing in an Olympics (with the
current lack of awareness and support) is 2012.

Once the immediate future building to 2012 is secure then we can
start focusing on building to 2016 and beyond. Furthermore, by
actually having 26 players (men and women) training and
eventually competing at the heighest level, we will then have
gained the experience and knowledge for the potential of 26
future coaches. Because they have achieved and been supported by
the sporting community they will hopefully want to give something
back and, most importantly, be able to coach our future players
to the standard required to keep us at the top of international
water polo.

Without people with the knwoledge and the willingness to give
back as coaches of the future then all our young athletes are
doomed to never reach the top.
By A realist!!

26 March 2009 at 22:41pm

Sparkes is clearly just making the right noises in his own
personal PR campaign and doesn't actually give a stuff about the
sport. He is all words and no action. When are we actually going
to see some changes? Professing that BS have no money to give
water polo is rubbish...what happened to the funds WP used to get
before UK Sport got involved? All he has done for years is make
decisions that have screwed the sport over and I KNOW he's just
waiting for the men to get fed up with the situation and leave
and give up, leaving BS blameless in the eyes of the masses...

The only reason the women's team have been given priority is
because there are less teams playing therefore of course they
will be closer to the medals. What kind of selection policy is
that? How does that teach our future generations that commitment
and hard work equal success? BS have just taken the easy option
as usual and found a perfect excuse to cripple water polo for
By NewB.S.CEOneeded..

26 March 2009 at 22:51pm

The mens team do not accept being classed behind the womens team
merely because there are less teams in the womens competition.
The gulf is bigger between the top nations in the world in the
womens as it is with the men, who have some serious candidates
with potential to enter highly paid professional leagues. Just
look at the age of the lancaster team who dominate british water
polo and have threatened to upset some serious names in European
competition. Sparkes is either misinformed in this respect or is
bending the truth.

In reference to the comments of “what future”, they seem to be
naïve in thinking that the future of water polo will be secured
by investing this (small amount of) money in grass roots water
polo. Much more money has been spent over the years, but without
the top class performers and professional attitudes/leagues that
are present in Europe, there is only a certain level which can be
reached. This is why we must ensure we compete at the highest
possible standard in 2012 and establish that base of world class
players. The 1.45m allocated from uk sport is obviously done so
with 2012 in mind, going totally against the performance criteria
set out would result in withdrawl of the funding.

I would be particularly interested to see/read how david sparkes
would respond to the rumour that he has been offered higher
status in FINA by Russian, german and Italian federation members
to ensure that there is no british mens team in 2012 so that
their own country’s participation is not put in jeopardy…

If we were to get a mens team to 2012 and perform admirably, I
would be amongst the first to congratulate mr sparkes, but at the
moment what real action have we seen?

Thoughts welcome.
By stand up

8 April 2009 at 16:56pm

There is a vast difference between threatening to upset some
serious names in Europe and in actually achieving it. Maybe those
in Waterpolo should have been spending money more wisely in
previous years instead of taking trips further afield such as to
New Zealand/Canada etc. Surely becoming competitive in Europe and
proving our worth in competitions on the Continent, would be more
beneficial to many of our players. As National Squads, we are
unable even to come top against some of the European club sides
playing at the moment, far less their National teams. A visit to
the European A championships last year made evident the gap that
has to be bridged to compete at the same level as other European
countries. GB waterpolo needs to be sent on a fact finding
mission to the Continent to see how they manage to achieve such
standards. Money is obviously an important factor, but so is good
management, organisation, coaching and people who want to take
the sport forward for all players, not just the chosen few. Other
countries must be doing something right to have so many quality
teams and players. Money can't be the only factor. Maybe we need
to admit we got it wrong somewhere along the line and move on!!
By EUPolo

19 April 2009 at 11:47am

My young son has discovered water polo and thoroughly enjoys the
sport . How many others are in a similar situation, but if not
encouraged by the organisations who should be funding young
players developement what hope have we got as a country to
compete in future national and international competitions . Does
it have to come down to who stands more chance of winning medals.
Encouraging young talent could be the future. Raise awareness
fund 2 teams in the Olympics and give hope to new and existing
By parent of a new player

23 April 2009 at 16:57pm

It's an unfortunate fact that water polo are not supported by
their own federation. Those who make the decisions at the top
level in British Swimming have consistently made bad decisions
that will affect any progress we will make as a sport. It's all
very well saying that they will set up these superclubs but
what's thepoint if there's no national team to aspire to? The GB
Mens's team have effectively been told that after September they
will be cut financially....we need to get the spotlight back on
to British Swimming and put pressure on them to explain their
reasons having publicly commented that they're doing all they can
to support the men's team.
By New B.S.CEOneeded

7 May 2009 at 08:04am

I'm getting a bit fed up with all the negativity about the
British Gas sponsorship. It's good to see that BS is doing its
bit to help WP earn its £8,000 a year share of British Gas
sponsorship over the next few years by re-branding its national
teams as British Gas teams (powered by British Gas). Formerly
referred to as the GB Senior Womens team, the British Gas Senior
Womens team (powered by British Gas) is now to be referred to as
the British Gas team.
And if you see a team preceded by the abbreviation BG instead of
GB, it's not a mistake. It's a British Gas (water polo) team
(powered by British Gas). Just wanted to clear that one up.
So, there you are - 9 mentions which is 2 more than the BS news
feature on the womens team (sorry, British Gas team) on 11 May.
(Make that 10 mentions). Beat that.
Just to help observers of other sports who may get confused - the
Nationwide team is the one that plays football and was formerly
known as England; the Vodafone team (also formerly known as
England) will be competing for the Ashes and the O2 team (also
formerly known as England) will hopefully be competing for
something like the 6 nations.
By Ged

15 May 2009 at 17:29pm

£8000 out of, was it 15 million? wow thats outstanding ged you're
right! most of them money will go to swimming who already have
far more than enough to get them to 2012 and way beyond, rather
than to the people who actually need it. that will no doubt be
spent on more pointless admin staff in needless jobs. they have
miss adlington to thank for that money, as if you take rebecca
out of the equation it was still a mediocre games for the
swimmers. how can you compare the amount of sponsorship put
towards water polo from british gas with the likes of o2,
vodafone and nationwide? british gas team? you must be joking.
By stand up

20 May 2009 at 17:58pm

Lets forget all about 2012 when the current Waterpolo structure
was put in place the statement was we will be ready for 2016 then
2012 came to London great for the UK but why have British
swimming and UK sport moved the goal posts and said everything
must be done for 2012 its killing the grass routes
By aim for 2016

5 August 2009 at 15:39pm

Sebastian Coe: Investing in success

altBy Sebastian Coe - 19 March 2009

Just over a year on from the launch of the London 2012 Business Network the economic benefits generated by the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games speak for themselves.



Together the London Organising Committee (LOCOG) and Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) will procure contracts worth £6 billion and that means new jobs and new public investment in homes, infrastructure and sporting venues for the capital and the wider UK .
Contracts are going to a diverse group of firms. Some 98 per cent of London 2012 suppliers are UK based with around half based outside of London. Sectors involved with us to date range from IT to architectural services to steel fabricators but that’s not just for large employers. In fact, over two-thirds are small or medium sized businesses (SMEs).
A major component of the London 2012 Business Network is our online ‘business dating agency’, CompeteFor. Over 54,000 companies have already registered on CompeteFor where 1,700 opportunities worth millions of pounds have been advertised on the service since its launch in January 2008. It’s easy to sign up with over 90 per cent of recruits so far coming from the SME sector.
The Government funded ODA still has significant Olympic Park contracts to place, however, the bulk of opportunities are now through their contractors. CompeteFor is already helping companies access this work as direct contractors are encouraged to place new opportunities on the system.
Although the procurement news to date has been focused on the ODA’s build side of the business, privately funded LOCOG is set to start procurement for Games-time goods and services from the 2009/10 financial year onwards as we move from detailed planning to delivery.
There is all to play for as we begin to release hundreds of opportunities for UK companies of all sizes to secure contracts to supply our Games-time goods and services. That’s everything from temporary seating to gym equipment and shuttlecocks!
The 2012 Games is already proving a golden opportunity to ensure growth in the UK economy. That should leave a legacy of fitter British businesses with the expertise of supplying the world’s largest sporting event.
With events like the World Gymnastics Championships, Paralympic World Cup, Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and, hopefully the 2018 World Cup, coming to the UK we have a ‘golden decade’ of sport and associated contracts ahead that I hope all CompeteFor firms consider bidding for.
Together we can make London 2012 as successful for business on the bottom line as it will be for athletes at the finishing line!
Sebastian Coe is the chairman of London 2012. He won four Olympic medals during his career and is the only man to retain the 1500 metres title, finishing first at Moscow in 1980 and in Los Angeles 1984. He also set eight world records. He is a vice president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF)  amd a non-executive member of the board of directors of England 2018 Ltd., the England World Cup bid committee




I wish more people would see the opportunities that the Olympics
offer this country rather than constantly try to knock them down.
If this attitude had existed in the 19th century heaven knows how
the likes of Brunel would have got on. We should embrace the
games and, in the words of Kennedy, ask, "Not what they can do
for us, but what we do for them".
By Dan Turner

19 March 2009 at 10:39am

Mike Rowbottom: Squash cannot afford to miss out on the Olympics again

Duncan Mackay

  altBy Mike Rowbottom - 18 March 2009


For those backing the seven sports seeking a way into the Olympics, these are nervy days.
With two spaces currently on offer at the 2016 Games, there will be a collective intake of breath by those championing squash, rugby sevens, golf, karate, rollersports, softball and baseball when International Olympic Committee members cast their votes at their October session in Copenhagen.
By then, however, it will be too late for the sports to alter their fortunes – and Fatalism, the universal anaesthetic, will be at hand.
No, it’s now that the nerves are pinging. With Sport Accord, the annual convention of sporting federations, looming up in Denver, and a crucial IOC executive committee meeting in Lausanne rising Alp-like beyond it, those who are being paid to talk the talk for their sports still have everything to lose.
So let the lobbying begin! Let the PR pour!
Down in W14 this week it was the turn of squash to make its case to the media for joining the Olympic movement.
Squash types can be forgiven a few extra-white knuckles given the sport’s experience of four years ago, when an invitation to join the 2012 party was snatched from their hand after less than the required two-thirds majority of IOC members voted to ratify the prospective newcomer.
Only 50 per cent of the votes will be required this time. And squash simply cannot contemplate the idea of hitting the tin once again.
So it fell to former world No.1 Peter Nicol (pictured), now a director of the Professional Squash Association, to articulate the case for inclusion as he stood amid eerily green lighting next to a court erected at the Queen’s Club in West Kensington, where this year’s ATCO Super Series finals have taken place.
altWith his intelligent face, fresh white shirt and heavy glasses, Nicol has more than a hint of Clark Kent about him. As Superman, he won four Commonwealth gold medals and held the world No.1 ranking for 60 months before retiring in 2006. At 35 he is now stretching himself in different directions as he champions the sport’s quest to earn what he clearly regards as the Holy Grail – a place at the Olympics for the first time.
"We very, very nearly made it into the Olympics in London," he said, adding with what I could just discern to be a grin: "I might have stayed playing for a chance of playing in a home Games…no, I couldn’t have. I would have had no chance. It’s a young man’s sport now."
As Nicol observed, squash has been here before. And the arguments in its favour remain persuasive. It’s healthy – one survey maintains top players lose 1,500 calories in an hour. It’s widespread – there are reportedly over 20 million registered players in a spread of 150 countries.
And there are other succulent stats, such as the fact that the top 16 men and women – all of whom are solemnly pledged to compete at the Games should their bid be successful – include 13 nationalities, many of whom would have the chance of making an impression on the Olympic medal table for the first time.
Another point well made – the sport includes several Muslim women among its leading players, including world No.1 Nicol David of Malaysia. The judges will mark you up for that, Peter…
In terms of delivery, Nicol would be well advised to dispense with a written script – particularly in the sub-aqueous conditions that pertained courtside before the lights went up for the first match of the evening.
Scott Garrett, the Squash 2016 bid team manager, made that point that squash has had more time to consider its campaign this time around. "The message has been honed," he added.
Whether squash ends up at the cutting edge, however, is likely to depend upon how efficiently it manages to present itself to IOC members over the next six months.
Meanwhile the World Squash Federation is considering the introduction of more technical wizardry designed to improve the sport as a spectacle, such as tracking devices on rackets, Hawkeye systems such as those that are already operating in cricket and tennis, and special camera angles designed to enhance TV action replays…
Nicol maintains, however, that criticisms of the way the sport comes across on TV no longer have a basis in fact given the innovations of the last decade or so. "It’s more a matter of perception than anything," he said.
Ultimately, he believes the essentially combative nature of the sport will generate the required support for its Olympic ambitions. "You’ve got two competitors in a confined space," he said. "That makes it very, very exciting. It’s all very gladiatorial."
Interesting line of thought that, Peter. Perhaps a few undecided IOC members might yet be won over by a touch of the Colosseums. Forget rackets and a ball, bring your net and trident. And what about a few lions emerging from a trapdoor?
Okay. That’s going a bit far. After all, it’s only half the IOC votes required this time around. So perhaps just the one lion emerging…


Mike Rowbottom, one of Britain's most talented sportswriters, has covered the last five Summer and four Winter Olympics for The Independent. Previously he has worked for the Daily Mail, The Times, The Observer, the Sunday Correspondent and The Guardian. He is now freelancing and will be writing regularly for insidethegames 



Let's all get behind this great sport and force the authorities
to put it where it should be - in the Olympics. Surely it is more
worthy than some of the sports in there. Synchronised swimming?
By Squash enthusiast

19 March 2009 at 10:21am

Nice piece, well presented argument. Keep it up. Paul
By Paul Hope

19 March 2009 at 20:25pm

Squash is surely a shoe-in, it's who gets the other places that
worries me. ... golf - no thanks, rugby sevens - mickey mouse and
roller sports - what are they?
By Simon Lasher

26 March 2009 at 22:05pm

Martin Gillingham: It is time to stop this witch hunt against Chambers

  altBy Martin Gillingham - 18 March 2009

Until quite recently, UK Athletics employed a convicted British drugs cheat on not one but two salaries. A fortnight ago, they picked another for the British team at the European indoor championships, his umpteenth in a red, white and blue vest, since being banned for taking drugs.


Unlike Dwain Chambers, his right to return to the sport and represent his country has never been challenged. In fact, UKA once supported Carl Myerscough's bid to have his British Olympic Association ban lifted in the hope they would be able him to pick him for the 2004 Olympic Games.


The same weekend in Turin as Myerscough fluffed qualification in the shot, Chambers sprinted to golden 60-metre glory breaking the European indoor record and becoming the third fastest man ever at the distance. Chambers had been vilified on his way to Turin, while he was there, and has been ever since he got back.

It is a witch hunt that has become a farce.

Between other less credible and defamatory claims, Chambers, who is not the most articulate of men, says the aristocracy of British athletics are singling him out for special treatment. He says UKA are guilty of hypocrisy. And do you know what? He's right.

Now, before you start getting the wrong impression, I'm no natural Chambers ally. It's just that having spent two years wincing at the alarming inconsistencies in the way UKA has handled its doping miscreants, my human side has moved me to have sympathy with him.

If I had my way, it would be one strike and you're out for life or, at the very least, a four-year suspension for the first drugs offence.

Chambers is an odious fellow. And when he sped across the finish line way ahead of his rivals in Turin it was difficult not to reflect on one of Dwain's preachings that it is almost impossible to reach the top in athletics without taking drugs.

The statement is, of course, hopelessly simplistic. It is also wrong. I'm confident that in my years of competing in, and observing athletics there have been many brilliant and fair champions. Problem is, I suspect there have been a significant number of illegitimate ones too.

Chambers says he's now clean. Should we pause for thought before believing him? Thousands of pounds in the red; a reputation that can't sink any lower; limited alternative career options; a sport that has disowned him – for someone with a crooked bend there's no great incentive for him to go straight is there?

It has also been revealed in the last week that Chambers has continued to mix with the two key men who once guided him down the path of self-destruction, the drugs baron Victor Conte and the disgraced coach Remi Korchemny.

Renewing acquaintances with those two lags hardly suggests Chambers is a man who has turned his back on his past. But then with all in UKA, who a couple of years ago were embracing Chambers and ushering him back to the fold like a long lost son, now disowning him, is it any wonder he's back
exchanging emails with those two undesirables?

Shuffling uneasily in their seats in Turin would have been a host of British athletics officials whose collective creation Dwain is. He's like Frankenstein's monster; for years UKA bigged him up while those with an analytical mind muffled into our mochachinos, suspicious of the bulging biceps, tree trunk thighs and occasional, unexplained cramp attacks on the track.

UKA was part of the machinery that found him, fostered him, funded him and peddled the myth that he was the real deal.

altDwain is as much a figure of fun as he is a brilliant runner. His failed foray into rugby league and his tilt at gridiron have exposed his gift for self-parody.

His first instinct is to blame others before himself and the interviews given in recent weeks by this self-confessed chemical compound on legs have been laced with contradictions and unsubstantiated allegations. He is a true toxymoron.

But where Chambers should be listened to is with his altogether more indiscriminate claims of hypocrisy and double standards within athletics. Dozens of athletes get caught taking drugs but very rarely are the coaches, suits and suppliers associated with the athlete's guilt brought to book with them. Years on, in some cases, such individuals continue to be involved in the sport, their characters and reputations unblemished.

It is even possible the IAAF will find that Chambers' book, which went on sale last week, has brought the sport into disrepute - a process that could set in motion a chain of events leading to his permanent expulsion from the sport.

It is yet further evidence that Chambers is spot on when he says he is being singled out for special treatment.

Athletics remains a sport with a cupboard crammed with skeletons, secrets to hide and an image problem. And that, perhaps above all else, is why there is still so much unease about having Chambers around.


Martin Gillingham represented Great Britain in the 1984 Olympic Games and 1987 World Championships at the 400 metres hurdles. Since retiring from the track he spent 12 years in South Africa where he was a radio talk show presenter and writer for a Sunday newspaper. He returned to the UK in 2003 and can now be heard commentating on athletics for Eurosport as well as rugby for Sky Sports, ITV and Setanta.



I commend Dwain for his efforts to ammend his mistakes. He should
be praised for this alone and lessons to learn from for our young
people but instead this is a blame culture and the media is keen
to idolised those celebraties that choose to do harmful drugs and
take pleasure in being photographed for being intoxicated.
By Lady T

19 March 2009 at 09:46am

As far as I'm concerned, Chambers served his ban and has been
setting about doing things right. I think he has learnt his
lesson and I hope to see him do well in the future- even if some
in Athletics won't give him a 2nd chance.
By Forgiving man

19 March 2009 at 09:47am

I think that Mr. Chambers should just cool himself and stop
aiming at Bolt and run his own race. Mr. Chambers, doping will
make anyone do it, but naturally, it's not that easy or maybe
next to impossible.
The J'can athletes are first class, and Bolt is just a little
above the norm. Another 100 yrs, before you see another like
Usain Bolt, so Mr. Chambers, you will not be there.
By Patrick, Jamaica

19 March 2009 at 09:48am

It is time to stop these columns about stopping the witch-hunt
against Chambers
By Fed up with Dwain

19 March 2009 at 11:20am

I wonder if Martin would have felt the same about Dwain if he had
been someone like Jason Gardener, whose whole career was
overshadowed by drugs cheats, conning him out of not only
appearances in major championships but also potentially several
thousands pounds in prize and sponsorship money.
By Nigel Jones Bristol

19 March 2009 at 13:22pm

I'm a big fan of Martin. He's the best commentator on TV by a
mile. I just wondered, Martin, how many athletes you competed
against you suspected of being on drugs? It would make a
fascinating blog. Jayne x
By Jayne Lee

19 March 2009 at 15:56pm

What utter rubbish. He's a cheat. We should never foget that.
By Annoyed of London

19 March 2009 at 16:14pm

Everybody makes mistakes, but some people won’t let Dwain forget
his. What’s more important is that he’s an amazing athlete who
worked really hard to get where he is, now.
By Sherrelle Gordon, Erdington

19 March 2009 at 18:07pm

Does Martin Gillingham really believe this rubbish he's writing?
Chambers is a cheat and a liar.
By Ed Moses fan, New York

19 March 2009 at 18:49pm

If sport is not about inclusivity, forgiveness and paricipation
then should it be seen as purely about winning, or even simply as

If that is the case then perhaps all is lost.

The message given to our youth in the handling of Dwain's
situation may be doing untold damage at a time when we should be
extolling the health related virtues of participating in sport.

I applaud Martin for his blog because not only is it a reasoned
arguement but it displays, as we all should, an abhorrance of
those who chose to cheat. It is certainly not rubbish.

Was Dwaine any worse than the player that "dives" in the penalty
box and costs a team victory? The driver that deliberately runs
another off the road. The tackler that consistantly attempts to
cause harm?

He broke the rules, he was caught and punished and it should be
time to move on. It would have been the case for most found
guilty of cheating and punished but for those who potentially
self harm by using performance enhancing drugs it seems they are
to be classed differently.

His stance now and his performances could have been utilised to
promote drug free sport, unfortunately we are left raking over
the same old arguements and not moving the debate forwards.

At a time when athletes are being asked to give details of their
"whenabouts whereabouts", be guilty till proven innovent and
potentially give access to medical records. Perhaps the most
"righteous" amongst us should refelect on the potential cost to
us all.

After all sport is really only a game.
By Dr Rob Dawson

20 March 2009 at 13:54pm

Let's be honest. Dwain is being punished for what he said, not
for what he did. Perhaps the fact that he is prepared to tell it
how it really is has rattled a few people in the commentatary box
and who are now involved at the highest levels of the sport? If
he had been prepared to play the game, been a good little boy and
kept his mouth shut and his pen tucked away he wouldn't be
attracting such attention. The truth hurts people. Live with it.
Dwain wasn't doing anything that no-one else did or had done in
the past.
By Call me cynical

20 March 2009 at 14:27pm

Does [name removed] on BBC not know that everyone knows he was up
to it too?
By BBC Hater

21 March 2009 at 00:56am

Tony Ward: Pays tribute to the great John Rodda

  altBy Tony Ward - 17 March 2009

I was deeply saddened to read of the death of John Rodda (pictured), who wrote on athletics for the Guardian between 1960 and 1995. John was the doyen and most respected of athletics writers. His contacts with the sport were at the very highest level as those of us, on the other side of the fence as it were, all too frequently discovered.


I had known John for many years but we came into closer and more frequent contact during my decade- long tenure as Media spokesman for the sport. Those were the halcyon days of the 80s and early 90s when British athletes ruled Europe and in some events the world. John was an exceptional writer; his work was incisive and imbued with tremendous knowledge.



His finest journalistic moment came in 1968 and had nothing to do with athletics. He was in Mexico City for the Olympics when hundreds of student demonstrators were gunned down just before the Games opened. John was the only Guardian correspondent in Mexico and his dispatches from the capital showed that he would have been a top journalist no matter what the field.

He wrote a history of the Olympics with the IOC President, Lord Killanin; he served on the IAAF Press Commission for many years; he covered ten Olympic Games for his paper; he helped Seb Coe make a report to the IOC; he assisted Andy Norman make a presentation to an IAAF Congress that changed the face of international athletics; he knew Olympic politics inside out. John was not only a reporter on athletics but a lover of the sport as well.

His other sporting love was boxing, which he also covered for his paper, writing on some of the great title fights of the second half of the 20th century.

My best memory of John is of the European Championships in Helsinki in 1994. I was walking through the grounds of the Athlete’s Village when my mobile rang. A familiar voice greeted me and then said: “Can you confirm that a British athlete has tested positive?” I couldn’t so I said that I would get back to him. I turned heel and went back to the restaurant where team manager Verona Elder and team doctor Malcolm Brown were in very close conference. They stopped talking. “I know,” I said, “what you’ve been talking about.” It was the celebrated case of Solomon Wariso and a supplement called Up Your Gas and John had obtained yet another scoop.

John’s retirement lunch was held at the celebrated Ivy Restaurant in London. One of the gifts presented to him was a photograph of him sitting next to the then IAAF President, Primo Nebiolo, who was obviously desperately trying to talk himself out of a probing question. The expression, peering over his reading glasses, on John’s face was wonderfully sceptical. He loved athletes but was rightly suspicious of most administrators.

When you think of John it is of a remembrance of times past, of an era when athletics was always in the news. Those days are gone but we will long remember him as, in the very best sense, a fine gentleman.


Tony Ward was the spokesman for British Athletics from 1986 to 1996. He is the author of Modern Distance Running (1964), Linford Christie (1989) and  Athletics: The Golden Decade (1991), which shortlisted for Sportsbook of the Year. He continues to write on the sport at http://tonyward-trackchat.blogspot.com/.



I was lucky enough to follow John as the athletics correspondent
of The Guardian and it quickly became apparent to me of the high
esteem he was held in around the world, both in Olympic and
athletics circles. He was a hard act to follow me.

One of my fondest memories was of how I was once got involved in
a discussion at a press conference with Primo Nebiolo, the
president of the IAAF, about two years after taking over from
John. At one point he turned to Istvan Gyulai, then the secretary
of the organisation and asked him what newspaper I wrote for.

"The Guardian" Istvan whispered to him.

"Ooohhh. A young Mr Rodda."

John was a great journalist and an even greater man.
By Duncan Mackay, Editor insidethegames

19 March 2009 at 12:51pm

John Steele: The funding decisions we have taken are right

  altBy John Steele - 13 March 2009



The end of March signals the end of UK Sport’s Beijing cycle of investment and the beginning of the new Olympiad that takes us through to London 2012. The investment of the past four years has born incredible fruit, with the amazing Olympic and Paralympic success of Beijing accompanied by a shift in attitude and approach across the elite sports landscape.    
A greater sense of responsibility and professionalism is entering into many of our sports, in the way that they are run as well as the way in which their athletes and coaches prepare, train and compete.
That shift is necessary and the momentum can’t be lost. Through UK Sport’s Mission 2012 programme we help sports deliver that change in three dimensions - their athlete performance but also their governance and the overall climate in their sport - the intangible but vital ‘mood in the camp.’
The evidence of this change also drives our ‘no compromise’ investment strategy. We absolutely believe in rewarding success, and with a fixed sum for investment those funding decisions are always going to be relative.
The best route to ensuring that Beijing’s success is exceeded in London, and then repeated in Games to come, is to focus attention and investment on those sports and athletes that are demonstrably succeeding, with performance evidence to back up claims of progress. The days when a sport believes it had a right to funding merely because it exists, or that decisions are made for anything other than meritocratic and objective reasons, are long gone. Most sports understand that – and those that don’t need to understand the realities of the world we all inhabit.
This is even more the case because of the changing world around us. None of us have escaped the economic recession, and we can all point to ways in which it has impacted our plans and ambitions. For elite sport, it is tough - by comparison even to as recently as 2006, the world is a very different place.   While commercial funding is available - look at the excellent deal just achieved by British Swimming - there are no guarantees. I strongly believe that the new Team 2012 fundraising Partnership we have announced with London 2012 and the British Olympic and Paralympic Associations gives us the best possible route to raising commercial funding in the next four years.
But despite this difficult economic background, when so many other industries are suffering badly, we are in good shape. There is record investment going in to our Olympic and Paralympic sports for London from the public purse and National Lottery. I know that the rest of the world is looking with envy at the funds we have available.  And as with Beijing we are making calls on that money to maximise its impact.
For months now the talk has been about money and whether we have enough. My view as we enter the new Olympiad is that it is time for that talking to stop.  We have made decisions, which while tough for some are absolutely fair and right ones to ensure we meet our medal ambitions in 2012. Not to have invested in them, spreading the total pot more thinly, would have been a compromise, and I am very comfortable we did not take that route.
Now we have to get on to the business of delivery, of driving change and leading the charge to success on the world stage.   
It is time to stop talking about what we do not have, and focus instead on what we are going to do with what we have.


John Steele is the chief executive of UK Sport



As you say we have to move on but I can't understand why, when
Beach Volleyball, in particular, has reached or exceeded all its
performance targets and the Sporting Giants initiative is
producing outstanding talent, the proverbial rug is being pulled.
By Dave

13 March 2009 at 15:28pm

Mr Steele, you are talking rubbish. UK Sport encouraged tens of
young handball, volleyball and water polo players to believe that
they had the unique once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of competing
in the Olympic Games only to renege on your promise. UK Sport and
the Government ought to be ashamed of themselves. They have
ruined the dreams of a generation.
By Disillusioned handball fan

13 March 2009 at 20:12pm

Surely enough public money has already been wasted on the
Olympics without even more being thrown after handball,
volleyball and water polo players who will be out of their depth
(no pun intended) in 2012? A cap has to be imposed somewhere.
Dare I suggest that £304 million is already quite generous
By Taxpayer

13 March 2009 at 20:40pm

I think the thing to remember here is that the finding from UK
Sport covers elite end and there has been a substantial amount of
money distributed through Sport England too. A commitment of
£480m no less which did give volleyball (£5.6m) and handball
(£645,000) the opportunity to develop more players at a
participation level. There is a case to say the more players
going in through Sport England initiatives will come out at the
elite end anyway and surely UK Sport have made the right
decisions to fund the sports they have.

To establish a sport competitive on the international stage in 4
years is ambitious but until we have a participation programme
underpinning handball, the money at the elite end can be spent
better elsewhere. We cannot simply 'build' handballers for each
Olympic cycle without developing the sport at a participation
level to cultivate the next generation of players, it doesn’t
make sense.

16 March 2009 at 10:26am

Whilst I agree with most of what you are saying my daughter has
just received her new funding agreement. Are you really asking
for her image rights so that you can try to raise money? Surely
all the top athletes will refuse to sign this devaluing your fund
raising scheme. Team 2012 need to have a re-think!
By Athlete Parent

18 March 2009 at 08:38am

It is so disappointing that someone who occupies John Steele's
lofty position in British sport does not appear to  understand
that what he refers to as  'minor' sports  are major team sports
throughout the world, and are blue riband events within the
Olympic Games. These sports who have had their funding cut so
that extra monies can be allocated to sports already cash rich
must be sickened by the attitude by those at the top of British
Sport, who do not really seem to address or even appreciate the
issue of how to grasp the challenge of getting British team
sports to a position where they compete well in true global
By Major world game enthusiast

19 March 2009 at 09:43am

I totally understand  John’s issue about wise investment into
Olympic and Paralympic sports However he does sport a disservice
when he chooses to criticise those sports  who have successfully
delivered against their criteria set by UKSport themselves then
uses that information seemingly as a justification for not
funding them.

Volleyball is one such sport who did well against UK Sports
Mission 2012 Traffic Lights system and worked throughout,with
UKSport officers. There does appear  to be a lack of transparency
and correlation in their decisions  making.

The real point here is that UK NGBs and their
athletes/coaches/officials and administrators are working non
stop to build programmes whereby the Great British public will be
proud to both support and take pride in their efforts and
achievements in London 2012.It is probably the only time the
Games will be held in the UK during our lifetimes and for perhaps
a generation to come.The promises made in Singapore are part of
the reason for their motivation and determination.

I fully understand the argument about funding and the Governments
decision which is not the fault of UKSport itself.

I am hopeful and even confident that together UK Sport and DCMS,
BOA, BPA and LOCOG will raise monies to enable those sports who
have had their funding cut to be able to prepare as a Host nation
should prepare.
By Richard Callicott, President British Volleyball Federation

20 March 2009 at 13:40pm

Martin Gillingham: Can the Diamond League really sparkle?

 alt altBy Martin Gillingham - 10 March 2009

 Sebastian Coe reckons it’s a good idea and “more important than just re-choreographing the deckchairs”.



What the Good Lord is talking about is the new series of Diamond League meetings launched earlier this month by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) which is due to get under way in 2010. It involves at least a dozen meetings around Europe, Asia and the United States that will replace the current mish-mash of Golden League, Grand Prix and Super Grand Prix, and IAAF permit event



My default setting is to offer Coe an unqualified endorsement. He is a persuasive figure, wise and well-connected who wears a plethora of hats to reinforce the point.


Coe appreciates not only what it takes to run a swift half-mile but also a successful commercial track and field spectacular. Despite someone who, along with the equally culpable Steve Ovett, made a career of dodging matches with his No.1 rival, Coe knows only too well the value of top flight head-to-head competition.


Coe claims the new series is the first step and not the golden ticket that will restore athletics to its glittering era of the late Seventies and Eighties. And he’s right. What it does offer though is a new, improved framework within which a more attractive, credible and rejuvenated sport can prosper.


Make no mistake - a two-hour athletics spectacular, keenly packaged with stars at every turn and contests to die for, is sports entertainment at its brilliant best.


But if the Diamond League is to realise its potential and win over its potential audience then a few fundamental building blocks will have to be put in place first.


The first of those should perhaps be constructed around the lower limbs of the anonymous agent quoted in a recent edition of The Times who mischievously hinted that however many binding contracts may be signed and sealed by athletes, agents, meeting promoters and whoever, there is a fail safe, no-repercussions get-out should their prized asset fancy bottling their much hyped head-to-head. “If an athlete wants to dodge someone, then he will develop an injury,” he or she said.


Very encouraging that, very altruistic.


But then perhaps we shouldn’t expect any more. Every agents’ raison d’etre is to protect the best interests of their athletes. So why expect them to pack off their expensive if slightly off-peak charge to a race they feel bound to lose? “Best you develop a sore hamstring,” they would say.


There will be no room for the late withdrawal of marquee names. If a fan buys a ticket to watch Manchester United play Liverpool or the British Lions take on the Springboks then he or she knows that even in the absence of a Rooney or Ronaldo, Williams or Cipriani it will not significantly diminish the occasion. On the other hand, if Usain Bolt goes sick on the eve of his clash with Tyson Gay, the impact on the whole night can be disastrous. 


That said, too many head-to-heads serve to devalue the currency. Less is more ‘n all that. Coe and Ovett were on to something when they relentlessly avoided one another. By doing so, they upped the ante, so much so that when they arrived in Moscow in the summer of 1980 their clash in the Olympic 800m final was the most compelling 1min 45sec of action all year – perhaps the decade.


Had it been their fourth or fifth meeting of the summer then the anticipation would have been greatly reduced.  


I’m also not sure the broad publicity already afforded to the money on offer at these new meetings does anything to enhance the profile. It may look good in track and field terms but these are the days of million dollar first prizes in other sports. Earlier this month, Geoff Ogilvy, a golfer, won $1.4 million (£1 million) in Tucson while Spurs striker Darren Bent earned more for a fruitless afternoon running around at Wembley than an athlete will for winning the entire event series at the 2010 Diamond League. Against its box office rivals, athletics’ prize purses look paltry. So best underplayed. 


There is also athletics’ long-established image problem to counter. The elephant in the room. No prizes this week for guessing which only other athletics story featured prominently in the UK nationals – Dwain’s book. 


There is no doubt the Diamond League offers the chance for athletics to take a significant step forward. But it will only work if agents’ and athletes’ assurances are kept enabling promoters to deliver and the doping scandals cease. If not then Mr Diack, Lord Coe et al might as well pack up and go home.     


Martin Gillingham represented Great Britain in the 1984 Olympic Games and 1987 world championships at the 400m hurdles. Since retiring from the track he spent 12 years in South Africa where he was a radio talk show presenter and writer for a Sunday newspaper. He returned to the UK in 2003 and can now be heard commentating on rugby for Sky Sports, ITV and Setanta as well as athletics for Eurosport. He will be writing regularly for insidethegames.


Martin has always been my favourite athletics commentator and I
don't understand why he isn't on the BBC. He's better than
everyone there by a mile - perhaps they wouldn't appreciate the
"tell it how is" style of commentary he employs on Eurosport.
While the BBC were hailing Marilyn Okoro's run on Sunday as
"brave", Martin was telling it how it was - stupid! Interesting
that later, when interviewed on BBC, Charles van Commenee called
it "unprofessional". It is good to know that Martin will be
writing regularly on insidethegames. It makes an already
unmissable website even more unmissable (if that is possible!).
Keep up the good work Martin.
By Track fan

11 March 2009 at 16:23pm

Charles van Commenee certainly looks like he is not going to
accept the medicority that the BBC are so happy to glory in.
Fasten your seat-belts - it's going to be an interesting ride up
to London 2012!
By Larry Ayre

11 March 2009 at 16:27pm

I agree about Martin. I'm Austrian but always tune into listen to
the English commentary because he is so entertaining.
By Frederick Strausmann

11 March 2009 at 23:32pm

Well done to Dwain Chambers on his 60 metres win at the European
Indoor Championships in Italy. I appreciate his reputation is
tarnished due to his drugs ban but it is obvious he is older and
By Julainne Gannon, Letchworth

13 March 2009 at 10:37am

I do not believe a series like the Diamond League will never work
in a sport like athletics because there is always at least one
event a year that is overwhelmingly the most important of the
season, such as the Olympics, World Championships or European

The sport is not like golf or tennis which has a number of events
which are of equal importance to its players. I am thinking
events like Wimbledon and the US Open in tennis and the Masters
and British Open in golf.

Also, the amount of money that someone like Usain Bolt can make
is determined by their performances in events such as the
Olympics. I bet that the deal the IAAF cuts with Bolt to ensure
his participation in the Diamond League will be worth
considerably more, financially, than what he could win overall in
the series - even if he won all 12 races.

People turn up to athletics to watch the big stars, like Bolt and
Yelena Isinbayeva. That is why it is so important to events like
Zurich and London to have them on the start line and why there
will always be an element of selfishness.

It is not like Formula 1, for example. It would be impossible for
the British Grand Prix to build its event solely around the
participation of Lewis Hamilton because his appearance there
would not matter unless he had competed in the earlier events and
was competing for points. Basically, it only matters that he
races there because it matters in the overall scheme of things.

But if an athlete of the calibre of Bolt runs in Eugene, Zurich
or London people will still turn up to see him irrespective of
how many Diamond League "points" he has.

But I do at least applaud the fact that the IAAF have recognized
that something needs to be done. I really do hope I am proved
By Michael Powell, New York

15 March 2009 at 18:08pm


Michele Verroken: The new price to pay for being among the elite

altBy Michele Verroken - 18 February 2009

In the short history of drug testing in sport, there used to be a time when to be included in the out of competition testing programme was regarded by the athlete as an indicator that you had “made it” into the elite of your sport.

Now the milestone of becoming  part of a sporting elite and a member of the ‘registered testing pool’ brings with it the additional burden of providing information on your whereabouts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year for testing at any time.
New rules mean that those athletes will be subject to an additional level of testing above and beyond the usual testing at competitions and squad sessions.
Although most athletes remain  subject to general in-competition drug testing, those  in an elite registered testing pool will be required to share their every move, every day. Inclusion in that testing pool may no longer be  regarded by all athletes as the recognition that they have finally “arrived” in their sport.
Increasing commentary about the burden and the inconvenience the "whereabouts" system is causing, is evidence that the current approach to the war on doping is not capturing the hearts and minds of those who we need to be supporting drug–free sport.
If the price to pay for representing your country has now become automatic inclusion in the registered testing pool, some may think again about this dubious honour and perceived loss of liberty.
For example if the registered testing pool of team sports is focussed entirely on the representative English football, rugby or cricket squads with the consequent requirements for 24/7/365 information, will this really encourage clubs to engage with this system, in the certain knowledge that a player’s failure to adhere to the strict administrative whereabouts requirements of the registered testing pool may lead to additional consequences for certain players which their club team mates are not subject to.
Is it possible that a player might to choose not to be part of the national squad and to stay within the professional league to earn their livelihood with less intrusive surveillance on their personal life?    
Are we on the verge of creating a two tier system of those engaged in the whereabouts testing system and those who choose not to subject themselves to such specific testing requirements?
Some players have already expressed to me the view that they might withdraw from potential selection for the national team, and any requirement to be part of the registered testing pool, as they fear the consequences of getting the administration of the whereabouts system wrong.
Some have suggested that they might retire from their sport, rather than fall foul of three missed tests and being judged to have committed an anti-doping rule violation which could end their sporting career.
Such thoughts have little to do with commitment to keeping their sport drug–free; athletes have additional concerns about protecting their own reputations from collateral damage.
Sponsors are sensitive to the harms of doping in more ways than one.
Safeguards are meant to be there but, as always, the devil is in the detail, more of which should be in the public domain.
If the athlete is strictly liable under the anti-doping rules, surely the system should be subject to the same high standard; ultimately someone should  be held liable for any unnecessary damage to reputation.
Whilst I am absolutely against cheating in sport by the use of doping substances and methods, it is difficult to justify the proportionality of the response that is being foisted upon our athletes.
Has the fear of doping in sport become so great that this level of intrusive surveillance is required and if so how successful is it?
In subsequent blogs I will look again at some of this detail, in the search for more effective ways to achieve sport with integrity.
Michele Verroken is an international expert on anti-doping and integrity matters in sport. She has over 20 years experience of developing anti-doping policies and procedures for professional, Olympic and Paralympic sports. She developed the UK's national anti-doping policy, designed the Drug Information Database and now advises (among others) professional golf on its anti-doping policy. She is the fiounder of Sporting Integrity. More details on www.sportingintegrity.com


Some interesting points. I have a lot of sympathy for tennis
players as they spend their whole life travelling. They would
probably love to be in the one place at one time for three months
but that's impossible. It would seem silly if a Nadal or Federer
ends up getting banned because their travel schedule overtakes
By Jason Fell
11 March 2009 at 16:07pm

The points made here are all valid. As someone who represents a
number of elite athletes, I can confirm that Michelle is right
when she talks of athletes walking away from their sport, rather
than have their repuations tarnished by administrative mistakes.
By name
13 March 2009 at 10:18am

It is time for WADA to wake up and smell the coffee.

The positive testing rate for performance enhancing drugs has not
been above 2% since testing began. Last year's UK figures show
only 0.5% of tests positive with a case to answer. Yet once again
the spectre of drugs in sport causes draconian actions out of
proportion to the problem.

How many more "cheats" will be caught by this new system and will
the "cost" be worth it. Where is the evidence base that these
actions will be of benefit to anyone wanting to participate or
even reassure those who spectate?

After all they will not catch those cheats using, as yet,
undetectable drugs. So confidence is unlikely to be restored by
these changes.

Not only could they be losing the battle for hearts and minds of
the athlete and losing participants in sport but they could be
could be key in losing the battle for "bums on seats".

Once that happens perhaps the sponsors will be the arbiter of the
"rules". (It is interesting to hear the realistic views put
forward for Dwain's inclusion in Berlin. After all we know who is
the fatest sprinter in the UK - do people really want to pay to
see anything less?)

The use of drugs in sport is wrong but Michele is right, there
has to be accountability on both sides.

Unfortunately rules based on "intolerant idealism" play into the
hands of those advocating the flawed logic of allowing the use of
drugs in sport.

As systems become increasingly unrealistic then the public too
may begin to sympathise with this view. Sadly, the self
fulfilling prophecy of widespread use of drugs in sport could be
realised. Could it be that only then we will understand who the
true losers are?
By Dr Rob Dawson
13 March 2009 at 13:29pm

There are clear breaches of Human Rights in having to provide
24/7/365 whereabouts information.However these rights are not
unfettered and a case can be made out that in the public good it
is reasonable to breach them.But all subject to the need for the
breach have to be treated the same.Drug rules apply to all doing
sport and not just the elite.Thus there cant be targeting and all
sportspeople must be subject to whereabouts rules !

Also whereabouts rules breach Health and Safety Law by breaching
working time directives and holiday rules.Thus to apply
whereabouts rules is a criminal act !
By barry williams
15 March 2009 at 22:53pm


Karim Bashir: British Sport has never had it so good

altBy Karim Bashir - 22 January 2009
The dust has settled since UK Sport announced the funding allocation for the Olympic and Paralympic sports that hadn’t been told what funding they were getting for the London cycle last year. 

It’s clear that some sports have suffered from the £50 million shortfall in elite sport funding but no one seems to be prepared to say that there has been an increase in the overall funding for Olympic and Paralympic sport; nine per cent for Olympic sports and a whacking 218 per cent for Paralympic sports.


This isn’t as much as Gordon Brown promised in 2006 when he was Chancellor but the world is a different place now. Job losses, businesses failing, the Government bail out of the banking and motor industries all point to difficult times ahead. Anyone that thinks that sport shouldn’t carry some of the burden isn’t living in the real world. Things would be a lot worse had the Government decided not to allocate £50 million additional funding.

So who are the winners and losers?

Let’s start with the losers:
* Ten Olympic sports face a cut from the previous funding cycle; highest cut to lowest: shooting, wrestling, weightlifting, fencing, volleyball, water polo, table tennis, handball, athletics and badminton. All other Olympic sports plus every Paralympic sport will benefit from increased funding.

* UK Sport seem to be taking a huge amount of criticism even though they are not a fund raising organisation! They are tasked with delivering medal winning performances at the elite level and the results in Beijing show that they are clearly on the right path. Yet they seem to have been put in the firing line of those who evidently don’t understand sports funding or who chose not to because they have to sell newspapers.

* The athletes who will lose their Lottery grants. These are the people who have put their life on hold to pursue the Olympic dream and were promised four years of funding. Now they have been left dangling with no support whatsoever.

The winners:
* Those sports that have rolled with the punches and embraced change. Cycling has never been a sport which has been hugely televised and the same can be said for swimming and sailing. Yet these sports have brought in great people who have dragged the sports into the 21st century, making them attractive to sponsors and utilising their top performers in a creative way which hasn’t impacted on the time they need to spend training.

* Every other Olympic and Paralympic sport! This may be hard to swallow for those sports that face a notional 50 per cent cut in funding but the truth is that if Sebastian Coe and his team hadn’t won the bid to host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games no one would be talking about sports funding.

How do we move forward? To start with we all need to accept the situation as it is. A sports person who trains for a major championship and fails to deliver can either train even harder for the next event or give up. Sports need to do the same. Those sports that have been slow or reluctant to adopt UK Sport’s “no compromise” approach must act now and modernise. It is clear that there hasn’t been a better (or cheaper!) time for sponsors to get involved in sport. Not only can they claim to have “saved” the 12 sports that have reduced funding but they can also take advantage of the depressed marketplace. Furthermore, with 2012 around the corner sponsoring individuals in exclusive arrangements will provide athletes with much needed support at the same time as allowing UK businesses to associate themselves with excellence; thus differentiating them from their competition.

Karim Bashir is a former British international fencer who is the founder and managing director of Catch Sport, an online sponsorship brokering service which is free to use for athletes from all sports. More details on www.catchsport.com

Click here to tell the world!

British sport has never had it so good? Trying tell that to the
handball and volleyball players recruited to take part in London
2012 by UK Sport, who gave up their jobs but now because of the
funding decisions of the same organisation find themselves on the
breadline and the prospect of not even being able to take part in
London 2012. I don't expect they are feeling particularly happy
at the moment, Mr Bashir.
By Janet Tomkins
11 March 2009 at 16:10pm