The likelihood that the world's fastest man, Christian Coleman, might miss the Olympics next summer has increased after he received a provisional suspension for failing to be home when drug testers showed up last year.
Coleman, the reigning world champion at 100m, said his latest flare-up with the anti-doping system stemmed from a miscommunication that could have easily been resolved with a phone call from the doping-control officer who came to his house on December 9.
It was his third whereabouts infraction in a 12-month span and could carry a ban of up to two years.
His path to the starting line at the Tokyo Games may now be through a hearing room.
Coleman's argument is being undercut, in part, by the fact that he was well aware of the ins and outs of the “whereabouts rule” because of a case against him that was dropped last year, before this latest incident.
“I can just be more mature about it,” Coleman said last year in discussing his close call.
The Athletics Integrity Unit, which handles anti-doping cases for World Athletics, said phone calls are not part of its testing protocol because they can make it easier for athletes to manipulate the testing process.
“Any advanced notice of testing, in the form of a phone call or otherwise, provides an opportunity for athletes to engage in tampering or evasion or other improper conduct which can limit the efficacy of testing,” the AIU said in an emailed statement.
Big names question Colemen’s excuses
Olympic champion Michael Johnson and Welsh hurdler Dai Greene also called out Coleman’s excuse.
“After a close call last year for 3 whereabouts failures or missed tests, for Coleman to allow this to happen again will lead people to believe either you’re doping or you don’t take seriously the anti-doping efforts of the sport. What reason do we have to believe otherwise?” Johnson tweeted.
“This from Christian Coleman: ‘I am willing to take a drug test every single day for the rest of my career for all I care to prove my innocence.’ Proving your innocence is the very reason athletes follow the whereabouts and testing rules which he has repeatedly violated!”
After a close call last year for 3 whereabout failures or missed tests, for Coleman to allow this to happen again will lead people to believe either you’re doping or you don’t take seriously the anti-doping efforts of the sport. What reason do we have to believe otherwise? https://t.co/B5GOkCucfL— Michael Johnson (@MJGold) June 17, 2020
This from Christian Coleman: “I am willing to take a drug test every single day for the rest of my career for all I care to prove my innocence.” Proving your innocence is the very reason athletes follow the whereabouts and testing rules which he has repeatedly violated!— Michael Johnson (@MJGold) June 17, 2020
Greene called Coleman’s excuse ‘disturbing’ given his past history.
“‘I’ve been contacted by phone literally every other time I’ve been tested’. Doping Control Officers do not ring athletes to give them a heads up that they are looking for them to test them. Disturbing that this is the norm for you,” Greene wrote on Twitter.
“‘Don’t tell me ‘I missed’ a test if you sneak up on my door without my knowledge’. That’s the whole point of random drug testing. The first you know of it is when they knock your door. It’s not sneaking.
“‘I am willing to take a drug test every single day for the rest of my career’. There’s no need, just give them an hour slot each day and they’ll come and test you every so often. Just make sure that you are there too.
“‘I have nothing to hide but it’s not possible to show that if I’m not even given a chance to’. You did have the opportunity, you chose to go shopping instead.
“‘I thought the point of the organisation was to keep the sport clean by testing everyone and catching the cheaters’. YES, exactly right. So everyone needs to make sure they are available to get tested or this system would fail.”
A few points. Thread.— Dai Greene (@DaiGreene) June 17, 2020
1) "I've been contacted by phone literally every other time I've been tested"
Doping Control Officers do not ring athletes to give them a heads up that they are looking for them to test them. Disturbing that this is the norm for you https://t.co/JCvefYYHBd
Will Coleman be banned for Tokyo Olympics?
Coleman's status going forward remains murky. According to the AIU website, his provisional suspension is listed as May 14, 2020 - 13 months before the start of US Olympic Trials.
The Tokyo Olympics, postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, are scheduled to open July 23, 2021.
An email to his agent and his sponsor, Nike, weren't immediately returned.
Elite athletes across the world are required to fill out a “whereabouts form” to make it possible for anti-doping authorities to carry out surprise testing outside of competition.
A violation means an athlete either did not fill out forms telling authorities where they could be found, or that they weren't where they said they would be when testers arrived.
Three missed tests in a 12-month period can be considered an anti-doping violation.
Some of Coleman's earlier missed tests were not with the AIU but with USADA, whose own handbook for athletes says phone calls are usually reserved only for the last five minutes of a time slot and "to confirm the unavailability of the athlete, not to locate an athlete for testing."
“We can confirm the latest proceeding involving Mr. Coleman and we are collaborating with the AIU on the matter,” USADA said in a statement.