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Christian Coleman must serve 2-year suspension after all

Out until May 2022, the world 100m champion will miss the Tokyo Olympics

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On Tuesday, the Athletics Integrity Unity (AIU) announced that it would uphold 100m world champion Christian Coleman‘s two-year suspension following three whereabouts failures in 2019. This means he will miss the Olympic Games in Tokyo next summer. After Coleman used a loophole to avoid a suspension last year, Tuesday’s announcement is welcome news for track fans and clean sport advocates around the world. It’s unfortunate that Coleman, the fastest man in the world, won’t be on the start line at any races for the next 19 months, but his lax attitude toward whereabouts failures is bad for the sport, and whether he was intentionally skipping tests or simply forgetting his duties as an athlete, many feel that a suspension was the right call. Coleman won’t be able to compete again until May 13, 2022. 

Not so lucky 

After barely escaping a suspension last fall, Coleman got himself in trouble once again in December when he missed his third drug test in 12 months. Following this missed test, he was provisionally suspended in May. In the AIU’s report on Coleman, it says he claimed he had been Christmas shopping when testers arrived at his house for his daily 60-minute window. However, he claims he was home in time for the start of a Monday Night Football game that evening at 8:15 p.m., and says the testers must have left before his hour time slot was up.

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Shopping receipts Coleman handed over to anti-doping officials tell a different story, though, showing that he stopped at a Chipotle restaurant and picked up food at 7:53 p.m. This was followed by more purchases at a nearby Walmart at 8:22 p.m. Coleman claims he returned home between 8:00 and 8:10 p.m., ate supper and watched the start of the football game before leaving to go to Walmart. As noted in the AIU report, officials did not accept this excuse. 

“Although the Walmart Center is relatively close to the athlete’s residence, it would have been simply impossible for him to purchase Chipotle at 7:53 p.m., drive home, park the car, go into his residence, eat the Chipotle, then watch the kickoff of the football game that only started at 8:15 p.m. and thereafter go out again in his car, drive to the store and pick up 16 items at the Walmart Supercenter so as to be available to pay for them by 8:22 p.m.” 

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Following the initial news of his suspension back in May, Coleman said he believed the AIU was intentionally trying to “catch” him. Whether there’s any validity to this claim is irrelevant at this point, and the fastest man of 2019 will not be at the start line in Tokyo next summer. 

Coleman’s loophole

The AIU website outlines the two types of whereabouts failures: missed tests and filing failures. If an athlete records three whereabouts failures in a 12-month period, they will be suspended. Athletes must provide drug testers with quarterly and daily updates regarding their whereabouts. The quarterly updates are more general, and it’s essentially filling in anti-doping officials on athletes’ racing and training plans for the next three months. For the daily updates, athletes must make themselves available for a 60-minute window each day. If an athlete is not where they said they would be on a given day in their quarterly update, they receive a filing failure. If they aren’t present for their daily one-hour window when a tester stops by, they’re credited with a missed test. 

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Missed tests are filed on the exact day they occur, but filing failures are backdated to the start of that quarter, which was how Coleman was able to avoid his suspension last year (and subsequently win 100m gold at the world championships). He had a filing failure on June 6, 2018, a missed test on January 16, 2019, and another filing failure on April 26, 2019. Even though his first filing failure actually occurred in June, it was backdated to the start of April, putting it more than 12 months before his third whereabouts failure and leaving him with just two strikes instead of three. Unfortunately for Coleman, his missed test in December was within 12 months of his missed test from January 2019, and now he has to pay the consequences.