September 11, 2019
Making his first public statement since USADA dropped its whereabouts violation case against him last week, US 100-meter champion Christian Coleman explained the details of his three whereabouts failures across 2018 and 2019 and criticized USADA for damaging his reputation in a 22-minute YouTube video posted on Wednesday. Coleman, whose father, Seth, took to the LetsRun.com messageboard last week to proclaim his son’s innocence, also posted on Instagram that he is “the biggest advocate for clean sport,” adding that he has never failed a drug test “and never will.”
The entire 22-minute video can be viewed at the bottom of this article. Here are the key takeaways.
Coleman criticized USADA for allowing news of his case to leak, damaging his reputation, and failing to know their own rules
USADA charged Coleman with a whereabouts violation (three whereabouts failures triggers a violation and a ban) on August 12; 10 days later, Matt Lawton broke the news to the world in the Daily Mail. Then, on September 2, USADA announced it was dropping the charge after receiving clarification on a rule from WADA that showed that the first of Coleman’s three whereabouts failures should have been backdated two months. Because of this, Coleman said, his case should never have gone public, and he blamed USADA for tarnishing his reputation and allowing news of his case to leak before he had been officially sanctioned.
“I have never heard of a situation where an athlete doesn’t have their own privacy to where they don’t have an opportunity to clear their name before any public knowledge is out there,” Coleman said. “So really, I think it’s a shame on USADA, the fact that this was public knowledge, the fact that they didn’t know their own rules, and the fact that they expect the athletes to know the rules but they can’t follow their own. And it really hurts athletes’ reputations when you have a situation like this with USADA.
“…Once information in regards to USADA gets leaked out to the public, it’s no stopping that…Once a situation like this happens, it’s hard to try to rebuild your reputation and have people not speculate.”
Coleman added that he felt like he was “being attacked,” with USADA singling him out because of his status as the world’s fastest man.
“Luckily, I’m in a situation where financially I can afford a lawyer, I can afford to miss races, and I can afford to have the best people defending me against a corporation like USADA. But for somebody — you know, because track & field, a lot of people don’t make a lot of money — so if you’re a lower name, you might just get ran over by USADA because they’re just looking to get people out of the sport. And the whole thing about it is, they’re an organization designed to protect the athletes, but in that situation, I felt like a victim. I felt like I was being attacked, like they were trying to go after the biggest name in the sport, you know, a big fish. At the beginning of it, this just shouldn’t have even been a situation to start off with.”
Coleman also said that USADA Travis Tygart called him to apologize, but Coleman wasn’t satisfied with that.
“This whole thing was public,” Coleman said. “I feel like I deserve a public apology.”
Coleman explained why he recorded three whereabouts failures — he’s forgetful
In the video, Coleman addressed his three whereabouts failures — June 6, 2018; January 16, 2019; and April 26, 2019 — one at a time. He said that in each case, he forgot to update his information once his plans changed.
The first, he said, was because he was struggling to deal with an injury and forgot to update his whereabouts from his training base in Knoxville, Tenn., to Oregon, where he was receiving treatment for the injury.
“This is my first time on the circuit and I’m hurt. I’m devastated, just not thinking about updating my whereabouts or anything like that. I’m thinking about, I don’t know, what am I going to do from here? I had never been hurt before, it was a traumatic experience. And so the first thing that comes to my mind is not updating my whereabouts. So that is on me, that’s my fault.”
The second failure came in January. Coleman said that he usually sets his one-hour window — during which he must be available for testing or risk a missed test — from 7-8 a.m. because he lifts weights at 9. On this morning, Coleman said, the weightlifting session had been moved up to 8, and he forgot to update his window accordingly. According to Coleman, the doping control officer (DCO) told him that she attempted to call him when she arrived; Coleman said he never received a call.
“I didn’t even know that I had a missed test until a few days later where I get an email saying you have two missed tests now. I don’t know. I was confused. I’m like, when did she even come? I looked at the time and when she said that she called and it was at like 8 something in the morning. I’m like, well I must have been at weights. And she said that she called, but like I said, I didn’t receive a call.”
The third failure, on April 26, came when Coleman was at the Drake Relays. Coleman said that his coach, Tim Hall, the sprints coach at the University of Kentucky, asked him to accompany the team to Des Moines.
“So I hop on the plane, go there,” Coleman said. “I wake up the next morning and I get a call [from the DCO]. And at this point, I’m like..uh, crap. I’m at the Drake Relays. I forgot to update my whereabouts.”
The DCO told Coleman that the incident would not count as a missed test, because the test was conducted outside of his one-hour window. Instead, it went down as a filing failure. Coleman called the DCO back, asking if he could be tested by someone at the Drake Relays. When he was told that was not possible, he sought out a third-party organization and was tested by them “to let USADA know that, you know, there’s nothing fishy going on.”
Coleman responds to his critics: “People don’t realize how easy it is to miss tests”
Following the Coleman case, LetsRun.com reached out to American middle-distance runner Jenny Simpson to explain the whereabouts system to us. She said that it is “very hard to miss three tests” and that “if you miss three tests, it’s either because you’re cheating or because you’re an idiot.” Coleman took offense to those statements.
“I just feel like people don’t realize how easy it is to miss tests,” Coleman said. “There’s people out there calling me an idiot and people saying you gotta be stupid to miss tests and whatnot. I’m like, um, 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. People have stuff going on their head. And as you can imagine, I’m 23 years old, I travel around the world. I have things going on in my life. And the stress of being a professional athlete in general can definitely weigh heavy on your mind at that. So sometimes, you forget to update the app and it just it is what it is. But it has nothing to do with doping. It has nothing to do with trying to dodge tests.”
Coleman believes it’s “unfair” that he’s tested so often: “Compared to other athletes, it’s an absurd amount”
Coleman said that he’s tested between 30 and 40 times a year and that it’s unfair that he is tested that frequently as he is far more likely to record a whereabouts failure than someone who is not tested as much.
“I want to say that it’s unfair that I’m tested the amount of times that I am. But I think that that’s just what it is. It comes with the sport, and especially the history, knowing it in my event, that I get tested more times if I’m ranked number one than the guy who’s ranked number 10 or 11, 12, whatever. I’m tested like 30-40 times a year…it’s a crazy amount of times that I’m tested. And I don’t even know how doping works or that type of ordeal is. But what I do know, it wouldn’t even be possible [for me to dope without being caught] because of the amount of times that I’m tested. Compared to other athletes, it’s an absurd amount.
“And so my feeling is that it’s kind of unfair that if we’re all playing by the same rules, like you can’t forget to update your app and miss three tests, but I can’t miss three tests as well. Well the likelihood of me forgetting and they coming to test me is far greater than the average athlete.”
Coleman says the episode cost him over $150,000 in earnings and threw off his preparation for Worlds
Coleman withdrew from the Diamond League meets in Birmingham (on August 18) and Zurich (on August 29) because he was worried that, if sanctioned, competing would push back the clock on when his ban expired. As a result, he said, he lost $150,000 in earnings by skipping the two meets. He also said that missing those two meets threw off his preparation for Worlds as he will now go into Doha having not competed since USAs.
“My plan after USAs was to run in these two track meets and then go to the World Championships,” Coleman said. “But I had to all of the sudden at the drop of a dime, switch up my schedule and not run anymore until the World championships. That can just affect you mentally.”
Coleman criticized the media for inaccurate coverage
“There have been a lot of inaccurate things said in the media over the past few weeks,” Coleman wrote on Instagram. “It’s a shame we live in a world where clicks=money, yet people still believe everything they read.”
In the video, Coleman said:
“I feel like going forward, what will continue to push the sport forward is if the media is not looking to report on negative stories. Not looking to be some sort of tabloid site where they’re just gossiping and whatnot.”
Quick Take: We understand why Coleman is upset, but he shouldn’t direct his anger at the media
Sorry to disappoint you Christian, but reporting on stories — whether positive or negative — is the media’s job. And in track & field, where athletes are busted for doping on a regular basis, there are a lot of negative stories. Coleman has every right to be upset that USADA didn’t know the rules about back-dating and that the information leaked out before the case against him was dropped, but for him to think that the media wasn’t going to report on the fact that an arbitration hearing was scheduled for September 4 to determine the fate of the world’s fastest man is absurd. If he wants to sue USADA for tarnishing his reputation or the missed races, he can try that, but USADA was in a tough spot themselves. Imagine if all of this stayed under wraps now but, five years from now, someone learned about it and published a story saying that Coleman had three whereabouts failures within a year but wasn’t sanctioned. Many fans would just assume that the higher-ups covered it up to protect one of the sport’s biggest stars.
Talk about the Coleman can on our messageboard/fan forum:
MB: Robert Johnson is an unprofessional, irresponsible hack and an idiot … and I have no problem tell him to his face In this thread, Christian’s father ripped LetsRun.com for its reporting on the Coleman case.
Full Coleman video: