A review by Mimitig
Over the years of this blogspace’s existence, there has been coverage of football (lots), cricket, motorsport and cycling (quite a lot), rowing (a little bit), very strange sports and occasionally other things.
Book reviews are not our forte.
However, I think there is a reason to focus our attention on a book about a sport we don’t usually cover.
The book is Dwain Chambers’s autobiography, the sport is track athletics and the reason is drugs.
I am not a great fan of athletics – the only time I get enthused is during the Olympics but only someone who throws away the front pages of the newspapers and never listens to news could have avoided hearing about the furore that surrounded Dwain Chambers’s positive drug test and the subsequent battles he has fought to be allowed to compete again.
One of my favourite sports (track cycling) is horribly blighted by drug-cheats and when I heard that Dwain Chambers was going to spill all the beans in his book, I just had to read it.
Everyone has known, since the days of the East Germans, that doping was part of athletics, but until Dwain got caught, cycling has copped all the shit. This, I thought, was a chance to get some inside info into the dirty doings in another sport.
Now, I heard many interviews with Chambers after the publication of this book and he came across as a very arrogant, unpleasant and self-serving person. I didn’t like him at all. Yeah, I thought, you did the drugs, got caught and now trying to justify it.
The first pages of the book did little to change my view. One of his ghost-writers is a chap called Ken Scott. If I’d Googled Scott before I read his preface, I might have been more forgiving of the fact he (while trying to describe the art of sledging) spelled Glenn McGrath’s name wrong. Four times. A Newcastle fan – need I say more?
Anyway, I plunged into the body of the text, trying to rid myself of the ghostwriter who couldn’t be bothered to get a world famous name right and the editor, copy editor and proof reader (forget checking a name but who ever heard of a drug called “heroine”?) who compounded that error, and to my surprise I found myself gripped.
There is no doubt this is a badly-written and horrendously-produced book and - at £18.99 for the hardback - is something any publisher should be ashamed of, but the information inside is both fascinating and incendiary.
Chambers does not write well, and his ghostwriters did nothing for his prose, but he has opened what should be a very large can of worms.
He lays out, in painful, very painful, detail his drugging diaries and how his body reacted. He also makes it clear that he was only one of many. Notes give details of other athletes involved with BALCO including US medal winners Kelli White and Chryste Gaines.
It is not hard to understand how Chambers felt the only way to compete on equal terms was to join Victor Contes’s crew.
While all this is sort of in the public domain, what is most interesting about this book is the way the British Sporting Establishment has reacted to Dwain Chambers, his book and his personal statements to some of the hi-di-his such as Colin Moynihan.
The Establishment has been prepared to accept other “Drug Cheats” back into the fold. Carl Myerscough is a prime example, but they have treated Dwain Chambers with a disdain and unfairness that is out of all previous behaviour. He got caught, he served his ban, but is still, and has been for four years after, been treated as an evil pariah.
This is despite Chambers fully cooperating with investigations, passed on to WADA and UK Athletics and the Olympic authorities, all the information he had about drug-taking in athletics.
The treatment Chambers received, not just from his own sport but also the public and the press, is at odds with the way a certain David Millar was treated makes me wonder whether Chambers is right when he writes:
“It is clear as bottled water that something or someone higher up the chain is out to stop me. They are trying to stop me competing, stop me earning a living and of course trying to prevent me from attending the Olympics in 2012.”
This book, in conclusion, is a must read. It’s badly written, professionally everything about it is horrid – don’t get me started on the spacing and punctuation errors – but the content is worth the crap.
And one of the amazing things about it, is that you know, as you read, that Chambers could crap so heavily on so many other people, but he doesn’t. My opinion of the man changed.