Will Christian Coleman, the Reigning World 100m Champion and 6th Fastest Man in History, Be Banned From the Tokyo Olympics?
June 16, 2020
The world’s fastest man is facing a potential ban from the Olympics.
On Tuesday evening, 100-meter world champion Christian Coleman announced the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) has charged him with a whereabouts failure on December 9, 2019. Because the whereabouts failure is his third in a 12-month window, Coleman now faces a ban from the sport of up to two years — which would keep him out of the rescheduled Olympic Games in Tokyo next year. The AIU confirmed a provisional suspension on Wednesday.
Coleman — who narrowly avoided a ban last year after two of his previous whereabouts failures were (correctly) backdated — heavily disputes the December 9 whereabouts failure, offering a full explanation on Twitter:
— Christian Coleman (@__coleman) June 16, 2020
Coleman says that while he was not at his house (the location listed on his whereabouts form) when the doping control officer (DCO) attempted to test him, he was Christmas shopping at a mall five minutes away. Coleman is unsure whether the tester appeared at his house as he says the address the DCO listed on the testing attempt form was not his house’s address. He also says that, for reasons he does not understand, the DCO never attempted to call Coleman — which the DCO confirmed in their report.
“I’ve been contacted by phone literally every other time I’ve been tested,” Coleman wrote. “…WHY WOULD AIU TELL HIM NOT TO CALL ME?!”
In Olympic sports, being available for out-of-competition drug testing is a very important part of an athlete’s job. Athletes must tell the anti-doping authorities where they are every day of the year (including a one-hour window during which the athlete has to be at an exact location) so they can potentially be available for a drug test. If the drug testers show up to that location and you aren’t available for a test, it’s recorded as a “whereabouts failure.”
More specifically, there are two types of whereabouts failures: missed tests and filing failures. Any combination of three results triggers a ban. If a DCO shows up to test an athlete within his or her one-hour window and the athlete is not available, that’s a missed test. If a DCO attempts to test an athlete outside the window and the athlete is not available or confirms that they are at a location other than the one listed on their whereabouts form for that day, it is recorded as a filing failure. An athlete can also receive a filing failure if the information in their whereabouts filing is inaccurate or incomplete.
Of Coleman’s previous two whereabouts failures, one was a missed test (January 16, 2019) and one was a filing failure (the incident occurred on April 26, 2019, but because filing failures are backdated to the start of each quarter, the effective date was April 1, 2019). Which meant another whereabouts failure before January 16, 2020 would trigger a ban.
Coleman claimed in a subsequent tweet that he was back home in time for his one-hour window from 7:15-8:15 p.m. but did not see the DCO; the DCO claimed they were at Coleman’s residence throughout the entire one-hour window. Whether this specific incident goes down as a missed test or a filing failure is irrelevant as both would fall within the 12-month window of his previous two whereabouts failures.
Coleman is the second 2019 world champion this month to be dealing with whereabouts failures; on June 5, women’s 400-meter world champion Salwa Eid Naser was suspended for three whereabouts failures.
Quick Take #1: More Information Is Needed, But We’re Tentatively Siding With Coleman on This One
Based on Coleman’s account, the DCO may have showed up at the wrong location as the DCO listed the wrong location on their form. Unless the DCO has GPS proof that they were at the correct location and that they simply made a clerical mistake on the form, Coleman should be immediately cleared. Since Coleman says he has been appealing this whereabouts failure for six months, one would think that this key aspect of the case would have already been figured out, but we aren’t going to assume anything here in a case involving one of the sport’s biggest stars.
UPDATED: The next biggest question for everyone is why the DCO did not attempt to call Coleman. The DCO wrote in their report that “no phone call was made per client instructions.” The client, in this case was the AIU.
We reached out to the AIU, and while they would not comment on the specifics of Coleman’s case, they confirmed that they usually instruct DCOs not to call athletes because a phone call “provides an opportunity for Athletes to engage in tampering or evasion or other improper conduct.” Here are the notes the AIU sent over:
- 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 by the AIU (with limited exceptions).
- 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.
- When an Athlete is not present at the location they have specified during the designated 60-minute time slot, Doping Control Officers are instructed to remain at the location for the full 60 minutes.
- The World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) International Standard for Testing and Investigations (ISTI) and the associated Guidelines make it expressly clear that (i) a phone call is discretionary and not a mandatory requirement, and (ii) proof that a telephone call was made is not a requisite element of a Missed Test and the lack of any telephone call does not give the Athlete a defence to the assertion of a Missed Test.
That said, Coleman says he had been called during every previous test attempt. If that’s true, we think Coleman should be cleared immediately unless it’s shown that he personally told them after his last out-of-competition test, “Do not ever call me again.”
Quick Take #2: We’re Tired Of This Crap. Moving Forward, One Thing Is Clear: The Drug Testers Needs To Video Record Everything They Do
A few months ago, another US sprinter, Gabby Thomas, who is a Harvard graduate, was suspended for three whereabouts failures. Thomas is protesting her ban as she claims she was exactly where she said she’d be for the third test but she never heard the drug tester knock on the door. She says she’s got multiple witnesses that will attest that the drug tester never knocked on the door of her location. The drug tester says they did knock on the door.
The reality is, drug testers need to be doing everything they can to complete the test. And both Coleman and Thomas claim that was not the case for their third whereabouts failures.
We’re tired of these cases devolving into “he said/she said” scenarios. The reality is, thanks to modern technology, there should be no doubt as to what happened factually. Just as it’s now expected for police to use bodycams when they are interacting with the public, drug testers need to record their attempts to drug test athletes. The drug testers need to be given a smartphone with a specially designed app on it. The app should show the time of day and their precise location. They should then film themselves knocking on the door of the location as well as calling the athlete.
Like police, drug testers need to be held to incredibly high standards because of the power they hold. While we at LetsRun.com consider ourselves to be leaders of the anti-doping movement, “gotcha” drug testing is not something we can endorse and that’s exactly what Coleman is accusing the authorities of here in not calling him. He views this as a “purposeful attempt” by the authorities to have him miss a test.
More: Talk about this case on our world famous fan forum/messageboard. MB: Christian Coleman facing a possible suspension for 3 missed tests.
*AP: Coleman Is Accusing AIU of making a “purposeful attempt” to make him miss a test. For the test in question, Coleman says he was shopping near his home and documents show the testers didn’t call him.
September 2019: *LRC Archives: Why Was Christian Coleman Cleared? We Explain Everything You Need to Know About His USADA Case
*MB: Robert Johnson is an unprofessional, irresponsible hack and an idiot … and I have no problem tell him to his face Christian Coleman‘s father goes on the LRC messageboard to complain about our coverage of his son.