Christian Coleman

Christian Coleman
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Christian Coleman suspended after disputed missed drug test

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World 100m champion Christian Coleman was provisionally suspended for missing drug tests, a ban he saw coming after appealing his last missed test Dec. 9.

Coleman detailed his case Tuesday night, saying a drug tester did not make an adequate attempt to find him.

The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), which handles doping cases for track and field, listed Coleman as provisionally suspended for “whereabouts failures” — any combination of three missed drug tests and/or filing failures in a 12-month period. A filing failure could mean incorrectly filling out forms to tell drug testers where an athlete can be found, or not submitting quarterly forms at all.

Olympic-level athletes must be available for out-of-competition drug testing 365 days a year, providing their daily whereabouts, including a more specific daily one-hour window, to help drug testers find them. Coleman has never failed a drug test.

A provisional suspension is for an unspecified period, defined as one “prior to a final decision at a hearing.” Neither the AIU nor Coleman has said if or when a hearing is scheduled. In whereabouts failures cases, a suspension, once finalized, is one to two years depending on degree of fault. That puts Coleman’s 2021 Olympic hopes in jeopardy even if a ban is backdated.

“A [two-year ban] would just be very egregious,” Coleman, who is still appealing, said on the Flotrack podcast. “I think that would be very, I don’t know, overkill. In situations in the past, I’ve seen people be suspended for only a year. If that’s the case, hopefully it can be a situation where it’s December to December or maybe May to May or from this day to next year, and I’ll still be good for the Olympics. That’s what’s most important.

“Even if we had to work out some sort of deal or anything, I don’t know, man, for me to just be suspended a year and still be available for the Olympics, I’m not sure, but I think in the rulebook it says two years. I’ve never seen that done or happen or anybody face that, so we’ll see. Everything’s just kind of like up in the air.”

Coleman said the drug tester did not attempt to call to find him and that he has received phone calls every other time he was not at home for a drug test.

“The lack of any telephone call does not give the Athlete a defence to the assertion of a Missed Test,” the AIU said in an email Wednesday, noting it is not commenting on Coleman’s ongoing case. “Testing conducted by the AIU is on a no-advanced notice basis and instructions not to make any phone call to an Athlete are given to Doping Control Officers [drug testers] by the AIU (with limited exceptions).”

Coleman’s other defenses: the address on the missed drug test report was incorrect — “He messed up the two or three words in my address,” Coleman said on the Flotrack podcast. “Maybe he was at the right place. Maybe he wasn’t. I don’t know.”

Coleman also said he returned home before the end of the one-hour window that the drug tester said they waited for him. That hour was 7:15-8:15 p.m.

“I know that I was there within the hour because I watched the beginning of the Monday Night Football game,” Coleman said on the podcast. “Of course, that’s he said, she said. It’s not really much I can do. There’s no real proof of that.”

Last summer, Coleman was cleared in a case of missed tests when a violation was backdated, meaning the third strike came more than 12 months after the first one.

He continued competing — winning that world title to cement Olympic favorite status — with two strikes on his record from January and April. That meant another strike before Jan. 16, 2020, would be his third in a 12-month period and could result in a suspension.

Coleman, a 2016 Olympic 4x100m relay member, was the world’s fastest 100m sprinter in 2017, 2018 and 2019, succeeding the retired Usain Bolt. His goal is to compete in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at the Tokyo Games.

The world’s second-fastest 100m sprinter last year was Noah Lyles, the world 200m champion who is bidding for the same Olympic triple.

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Christian Coleman disputes missed drug test that could bring suspension

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Christian Coleman, the world 100m champion, said he could be suspended after missing a drug test that he believes shouldn’t be a strike on his record.

Coleman tweeted Tuesday that he spent the last six months appealing a missed drug test from Dec. 9. Combined with a previous missed test and a previous filing failure (missing a test for failing to update his whereabouts), he could face a suspension for three strikes in a 12-month period.

Coleman called the Dec. 9 incident “a purposeful attempt to get me to miss a test.”

The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), which handles doping cases for track and field, has not commented on Coleman’s situation. It usually does not until and unless athletes are suspended.

Olympic-level athletes must be available for out-of-competition drug testing 365 days a year, providing their daily whereabouts to help drug testers find them. Coleman has never failed a drug test.

Coleman said the drug tester did not make an adequate attempt to find him on Dec. 9. The tester showed up at Coleman’s Kentucky residence in a gated apartment complex and knocked on his door every 10 minutes for an hour, but Coleman did not answer, according to the missed test report that Coleman posted.

Coleman said he was at a mall, five minutes away, Christmas shopping.

“I have multiple receipts of going shopping then getting food and coming back during this time so I don’t think he stayed for an hour,” Coleman said.

The tester “didn’t even bother to call me or attempt to reach me,” Coleman said, adding that the address on the missed test report was incorrect.

“Who knows if he even came to my spot,” he said.

No phone call was made “per client instructions,” according to the missed test report.

“I was more than ready and available for testing and if I had received a phone call I could’ve taken the drug test and carried on with my night,” Coleman tweeted. “WHY WOULD AIU TELL HIM NOT TO CALL ME?!”

Coleman said he was drug tested two days later with normal protocol, including a phone call from the tester. He said every time he has been tested, he has received a phone call.

Last summer, Coleman was cleared in a case of missed tests when a violation was backdated, meaning the third strike came more than 12 months after the first one.

He continued competing — winning that world title to cement Olympic favorite status — with two strikes on his record from January and April. That meant another strike before Jan. 16, 2020, would be his third in a 12-month period and could result in a suspension.

“I have nothing to hide but it’s not possible to show that if I’m not even given a chance to,” Coleman tweeted. “I support USADA, WADA and the AIU to keep athletes and competition clean and fair. But the system must change.

“This process has caused me much stress, many panic attacks and a lot of anxiety. I’d much rather just share my phone location and they can pull up whenever, wherever.”

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U.S. track and field revival set for first post-Usain Bolt Olympics

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Six months ago at the world track and field championships, the U.S. showed its cards for the Tokyo Olympics, what will be the first Games in the post-Usain Bolt era.

A bevy of 20-somethings (and a few in their 30s with remarkable stories) tied the record for most gold medals at a single worlds (14). Americans began filling the void left by the retirement of the biggest star in the sport’s history.

Then came the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials on Feb. 29 in Atlanta. The men’s and women’s races exceeded expectations for excitement. They produced an unpredictable first six members of the U.S. Olympic track and field team.

Both world championships and those trials whet the appetite for what was to come — a spring marathon season with a duel between the two fastest men in history, the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials at a rebuilt Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., and the Tokyo Games themselves.

The coronavirus pandemic postponed those plans. Hopefully, Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele will face off at a London Marathon rescheduled for Oct. 4. Hayward Field’s grand reopening must wait, too. All of those athletes who starred at the world championships — and the marathon trials — saw their Olympic dreams deferred to 2021.

How will this change the sport’s major storylines? We may have to wait a year to find out.

For Ato Boldon, the NBC Olympic track and field analyst, the most mouth-watering showdowns for track trials were to be the men’s 200m and the women’s 400m hurdles.

Christian Coleman, the world 100m champion, and Noah Lyles, the world 200m champion, both said in 2019 that they planned to race the 100m and 200m at trials, eyeing the Bolt feat of sweeping the sprints at the Olympics. The 200m typically comes after the 100m at trials and is a 20-second test of endurance after racing five previous times at the meet.

The last time Dalilah Muhammad and Sydney McLaughlin faced off in a 400m hurdles, it produced the first- and third-fastest times in history. Muhammad, the Rio Olympic champion, lowered the world record at nationals and worlds last year.

“Sydney is ready to ascend to the throne,” Boldon said of McLaughlin, who in Rio became the youngest U.S. Olympic track and field competitor in 44 years, “and Dalilah Muhammad is like nope, not yet.”

The next year could have greater impact for other established champions.

Start with Allyson Felix, a 34-year-old bidding for her fifth Olympics and to add to her collection of nine medals, tied for the most among female track and field athletes. Felix came back last year from a life-threatening childbirth to make her ninth world championships and break her tie with Usain Bolt for the most world titles.

Felix yearns to compete in Tokyo in an individual event, which will be difficult. Last year, she made worlds strictly in the relays after placing sixth in the 400m at nationals in her first meet as a mom. The top three at trials qualify individually.

Boldon believes the extra year will benefit Felix, who come July 2021 will be older than any previous female U.S. Olympic track and field medalist. Boldon pointed to Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who eased back from childbirth. In Fraser-Pryce’s second season back last year, she won the world 100m title.

“It gives her more time to train and sort of get back to the Allyson we all know and love,” Boldon said.

South African Wayde van Niekerk is another interesting case. In Rio, he broke Michael Johnson‘s 17-year-old world record in the 400m, clocking 43.03 seconds from lane eight. Van Niekerk scantly raced since tearing an ACL and a meniscus in a celebrity tag rugby match on Oct. 7, 2017.

“The more time he has to recover from his time off and his injury, I think the better,” Boldon said. “I haven’t seen anything yet that convinces me that Wayde van Niekerk is going to be a medal threat in 2021.”

Then there are the young, promising athletes who, with an extra year of training, could break through in 2021. Boldon knows this well. He coaches one of them.

Jamaican Briana Williams has been billed as an heir apparent in the women’s sprints for years and threw down the times to back it up. The Tokyo Games would be her first senior global championships.

“Obviously, I would have loved to go at things as normal and be ready in June and July to face the best in the world,” Boldon said, “but I look at this, and I go, yeah, she gets one more year to mature, to grow in confidence. I like my chances with my 18-year-old Briana.”

The overall story of 2021 could be the U.S. men.

At worlds, they won every flat race from 100m through 800m, plus both relays, except for the 400m. They may have won the 400m, too, if Michael Norman (fastest in the world in 2019) was healthy. Once in Olympic history has one nation swept the men’s 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m and both relays — the U.S. at the 1956 Melbourne Games.

The current American surge comes two Olympics after the U.S. was shut out of gold medals in those six events. Those sprinters earned one silver and one bronze overall in London. With Bolt now focused on fatherhood, the time is ripe.

“That’s how the pendulum swings sometimes,” Boldon said. “London 2012, not only did they not win any of those events, they barely factored. Then you fast forward two Olympics, and now they have a chance to absolutely not just win. In some events we’re talking about a possible sweep.”

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