Dwain Chambers gets boost from psychology

British athlete Dwain Chambers is using sports psychology to help boost his performance and move on from his chequered past. The sprinter - whose Olympic ban for drug use has been overturned - revealed he turned to a psychologist in order to deal with the mental challenges he now faces since the decision.

Chambers said the assistance has already proven a "massive help", admitting he turned down the opportunity to undergo appointments for a long time before finally deciding to give them a go.

Having served a two-year ban for testing positive for anabolic steroids, the athlete said despite his tough exterior, there are many internal complications he has to contend with.

"I'm on a kind of roller-coaster, trying to find my feet and get myself prepared for competitions that I never expected to be in," he added.

Chambers will be hoping sports psychology will help him make the British Olympic team this year, yet he needs to run the 100-metre sprint qualifying standard of 10.18 seconds to make the team.

Dr Susan Backhouse, Chartered Psychologist, says: "In the quest to be the best they can be, athletes and their entourage seek legal ways to improve their performance. Sport psychology is an ideal ergogenic aid because it removes the psychological barriers that can impact performance. Furthermore, it helps athletes to develop a positive mindset which is key to success in life and sport. From an anti-doping perspective, developing mental skills techniques could help to prevent drug use in sport."

Dr Kate Kirby from University College Dublin adds: "Many athletes use sport psychology to help them prepare for Olympic qualification and to assist them in producing their best performances at Games time. Much of this work involves the learning of traditional sport psychology skills such as visualisation, concentration techniques, use of routines and goal setting. Such tools have repeatedly been shown to produce performance enhancing effects among athletes of all standards and ages. 

"However, the hype around the Olympic Games places additional pressure on athletes, many of whom struggle to cope with the distruption to their regular routines and the increased public attention. As a result, sport psychologists also play an important role in making sure athletes are not overwhelmed by the Olympic experience and are able remain focused on their performance. In Dwain's case, public attention has been magnified by the recent high profile court case to decide if British athletes who had served doping bans should be allowed to compete in London. Uncertainty of any kind is also a cause of anxiety for athletes, and the fact that Dwain had such a lengthy wait to find out if he could even attempt to qualify for the Games could have contributed to the "mental challenges" mentioned in this article."

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