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Christian Coleman speaks out, wants apology over drug-testing matter

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Christian Coleman said he deserves an apology, that his reputation as a clean athlete was victimized, as his case of missing drug tests — ultimately thrown out under close examination of a rule — was made public.

“I put my heart and soul into track and field and worked hard to get where I am today,” was posted on Coleman’s social media. “It’s simply disrespectful when fake fans speculate and talk about drugs in relation to the great athletes we have in this sport.

“I shouldn’t have to defend myself but for the first and last time I literally do not take ANY supplements or protein powders. Nothing even legal to help with recovery. Nothing. I work hard at practice, drink water and Powerade, rest, and work even harder the next day. Therefore I have never failed a drug test and never will.”

Coleman, the world’s fastest 100m sprinter each of the last three years, contested an anti-doping rule violation of missing three drug tests in a span of 12 months from 2018 to 2019.

The violation carries at least a one-year ban, even though the athlete may never have tested positive for a banned substance. Coleman would have been in line to miss the world championships that start in two weeks and, possibly, the Tokyo Olympics.

Coleman’s charge was withdrawn by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency last week because his first strike was deemed a “filing failure” and not a “missed test” on June 6, 2018. A “missed test” is when a tester shows up during an athlete’s daily one-hour window at his or her listed location. A “filing failure” is when a tester shows up outside that window, though athletes are still required to provide daily locations to be found.

Rules state that filing failures are backdated to the first day of the quarter in which an athlete failed to properly update whereabouts for drug testers. So it was backdated to April 1, 2018.

The other times testers tried to find him and could not were Jan. 16 and April 26 of this year, the latter coming more than 12 months after the first strike once it was backdated. Case withdrawn.

Coleman said he was first notified this past April of the violation for three missed tests. He was upset that media reported on the matter while the case was still ongoing in August.

“We knew the rules,” Coleman said in a video titled ‘My Perspective’ published Wednesday. “We’re telling them this every single time, but they still told us, ‘We have to have a hearing. It’s three missed tests.’ We’re like, OK, cool, if we have a hearing, we know we’re going to win because we’re looking at the rules, and we’re telling them this is the case.”

Coleman said missing two Diamond League meets in late August and legally dealing with the matter cost him at least $150,000. He said he spoke with USADA CEO Travis Tygart over the phone and wants a public apology, though he did not specifically say whom he wants it from.

“The smear of my reputation, that’s something you can’t put a dollar sign on,” he said, adding that he gets tested 30 or 40 times per year, what he called an “absurd” amount compared to other athletes.

Coleman said the matter was about USADA not knowing anti-doping rules, which ended up hurting his reputation.

“The whole thing about it is, their organization [USADA] is designed to protect the athletes, but in that situation, I felt like a victim,” Coleman said. “I felt like I was being attacked, like they were trying to go after the biggest name in the sport.”

USADA declined to respond specifically to Coleman’s comments about his conversation with Tygart and on the organization. It instead directed to the whereabouts section of its website and, specifically, a section about athlete responsibility.

In the video, Coleman detailed the three times a tester could not find him.

For the first one, he forgot to update his whereabouts when he flew to Portland, Ore., to get treatment for an injury.

“That’s my fault,” Coleman said.

For the second, he didn’t update his whereabouts when his weight training session was moved one hour early and up against his daily one-hour window.

“I do take responsibility for that,” he said.

For the last test, this past April, Coleman said he forgot to update his whereabouts when he traveled to attend the Drake Relays in Iowa.

A drug tester showed up to his training base in Kentucky, could not find him and contacted him. He said he asked if a tester could find him at Drake, but it couldn’t be done. He said he went to a third party to get tested anyway, “just to show good faith.”

“I just feel like people don’t realize how easy it is to miss tests,” Coleman said. “There was people out there calling me an idiot. … I don’t know what people look at athletes as, but we’re human beings, and nobody’s perfect. People make mistakes. People have things going on in their life.”

MORE: Wayde van Niekerk to miss world championships

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40 years ago today: Jimmy Carter lays plan for Olympic boycott

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On Jan. 20, 1980, U.S. President Jimmy Carter said he would not support sending a U.S. team to the Moscow Olympics later that summer if the Soviet Union did not withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

Carter detailed his stance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” airing that Sunday. A transcript:

Bill Monroe: Assuming the Soviets do not pull out of Afghanistan any time soon, do you favor the U.S. participating in the Moscow Olympics, and if not, what are the alternatives?

Carter: No. Neither I nor the American people would support the sending of an American team to Moscow with Soviet invasion troops in Afghanistan. I’ve sent a message today to the United States Olympic Committee spelling out my own position that unless the Soviets withdraw their troops within a month from Afghanistan that the Olympic Games be moved from Moscow to alternate site or multiple sites or postponed or canceled. If the Soviets do not withdraw their troops immediately from Afghanistan — within a month — I would not support the sending of an American team to the Olympics. It’s very important for the world to realize how serious a threat the Soviets’ invasion of Afghanistan is. I do not want to inject politics into the Olympics, and I would personally favor the establishment of a permanent Olympic site for both the Summer and the Winter Games. In my opinion, the most appropriate permanent site for the Summer Games would be Greece. This will be my own position, and I have asked the U.S. Olympic Committee to take this position to the International Olympic Committee, and I would hope that as many nations as possible would support this basic position. One hundred and four nations voted against the Soviet invasion and called for their immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan in the United Nations, and I would hope as many of those as possible would support the position I’ve just outlined to you.

Monroe: Mr. President, if a substantial number of nations does not support the U.S. position, would not that just put the U.S. in an isolated position without doing much damage to the Soviet Union?

Carter: Regardless of what other nations might do, I would not favor the sending of an American Olympic team to Moscow while the Soviet invasion troops are in Afghanistan.

Three days later, Carter said in his State of the Union address, “I have notified the Olympic Committee that with Soviet invading forces in Afghanistan, neither the American people nor I will support sending an Olympic team to Moscow.”

The Soviets did not withdraw troops.

Though Carter did not have the authority to order a boycott, the U.S. Olympic Committee did decide on April 12 not to send a team.

The U.S. was among more than 60 nations that were invited to the Moscow Games and did not participate (for various reasons). Other notable absences included Canada, West Germany, Japan and China.

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MORE: Japanese athlete’s bid to become oldest Olympian in history still alive

With four former champions in the mix, who can claim U.S. Championships pairs’ title?

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There have been four different U.S. pairs’ champions in the past four years. All four of those teams are in the field at this week’s U.S. Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina. With that in mind, who could get the nod to compete at the world championships in March?

The U.S. has two spots to fill, thanks to the efforts of Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc, who finished ninth at last year’s worlds.

Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier had the best fall of any U.S. pair, winning two bronze medals on the Grand Prix Series. Denney and Frazier finished with silver medals at last year’s national championships, too. The team has previous experience at the world championships (2015: 12th; 2017: 20th).

Cain-Gribble and LeDuc won the national title last year after a season that was nearly sidelined by Cain-Gribble’s concussion in December 2018. As the solo U.S. representatives at the world championships, they succeeded in earning back two world berths for 2020.

This season, they won two B-level competitions and finished fourth and fifth at their Grand Prix assignments. LeDuc said last week that despite their win at Golden Spin in December, “there was a little bit of room for improvement, which is exactly what we want from a competition going into nationals.”

“We feel like we’ve improved a lot as far as what we’re able to take on mentally because we know that this is going to be an intense week,” Cain-Gribble said. “We’re prepared for that. We’ve never had to do this before, where we’re coming in and we’re already the reigning champions. We’ve never come in with that title before. We’ve had the opportunity to talk to a lot of people about it and what that feeling is, but overall their main thing was, ‘Be prepared. Prepare yourself beyond what you can even imagine. When you get there, just go on autopilot and do your thing.’”

PyeongChang Olympic team event bronze medalists Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim haven’t been in top form since the Games. Later in 2018, they split from short-lived coach Aljona Savchenko in Germany and moved to California.

They finished an all-time low of seventh at last year’s nationals and were not assigned to any events later in the season. In their off-season, Chris underwent wrist surgery. The couple also added Rafael Arutunian to their coaching team to address their jumping abilities. Their season consisted of a silver medal at a B-level competition, followed by two Grand Prix assignments where they finished fourth and seventh.

“We feel that many people probably have kind of written us off, because we’re an old married couple and we’re kind of labeled ‘can’t get it together,’” Scimeca Knierim said after finishing fourth at Skate Canada this fall. “That’s almost an advantage, because I feel like for so long, we were considered the front-runners. I still believe we are. We’re trying to show we can get it together.”

The last time the Knierims competed at a nationals in Greensboro, in 2015, they won the first of their two titles. That year, they notched their highest placement (seventh) across five total trips to the world championships.

Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea won their national title in 2016 and were also sent on their only trip to the world championships where they finished 13th. In 2017, Kayne underwent knee surgery, but they returned to the national podium in 2018 and won silver. Last year, they finished fourth after a disastrous free skate.

This season, they collected a silver medals and a fourth place finish at two B-level competitions as well as a pair of sixth-place finishes on the Grand Prix.

MORE: 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships TV, live stream schedule

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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