The likelihood that the world’s fastest man, Christian Coleman, might miss the Olympics next summer increased Wednesday when he received a provisional suspension for failing to be home when drug testers showed up last year.
Coleman, the reigning world champion at 100 meters, 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 Dec. 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 think 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.
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 U.S. Olympic Trials. The Tokyo Olympics, postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, are scheduled to open July 23, 2021.
Last season, Coleman got ensnared in doping drama after word of his whereabouts failure leaked to the media. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency ended up dropping the case over a technicality in a very confusing rulebook. He went on to capture 100-meter gold at the world championships in Doha, Qatar, last September.
Through it all, the 24-year-old Coleman endured some damage in the court of public opinion. There were those ready to lump him in with a list of other big-name Americans such as Tim Montgomery, Marion Jones, Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay who have been busted for doping over the years.
“At the end of the day, I didn’t do anything wrong,” Coleman said after his race in Doha.
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.