Thanks to a loophole in the anti-doping system, when U.S. sprinter Christian Coleman missed three drug tests in a 12-month span between 2018 and 2019, he was not suspended from competition. He went on to win gold in the 100m at the world championships in Doha. After such a close shave with a potential ban from the sport, it would be fair to assume that Coleman would be extra vigilant moving forward, ensuring that he never missed another test. Well, the sprinting champion is in the news once again after yet another whereabouts failure. This time, he has been provisionally suspended by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU). Coleman still has an excuse, tweeting, “I was Christmas shopping five minutes away, and [the testers] didn’t even bother to call me or attempt to reach me … I’ve been contacted by phone literally every other time I’ve been tested.”
The AIU confirms a provisional suspension against Christian Coleman of the USA for whereabouts failures, a violation of the @WorldAthletics Anti-Doping Rules.
Find out more ⬇️https://t.co/opInfkVlnV#AIUNews#CleanSport pic.twitter.com/JPMAh41Eke
— Athletics Integrity Unit (@aiu_athletics) June 17, 2020
Coleman’s 2019 loophole
There are two types of whereabouts failures: missed tests and filing failures. A missed test means the athlete wasn’t where he said he would be during a designated 60-minute time slot (athletes must keep testing authorities updated on their location every day). A filing failure can come in several forms, according to the AIU. If the athlete submits his whereabouts for the day but the information is “incomplete or inaccurate or insufficient,” resulting in a missed test because they couldn’t be located, that is a filing failure. If an athlete did submit his whereabouts but failed to update them if his plans changed, that is also a failure. A third example would be if he simply didn’t submit his whereabouts for the day.
Missed tests are registered on the day they happen, but filing failures are backdated to the first day of the quarter in which they occur. This is how Coleman avoided being banned in 2019 – he really did have three strikes in 12 months, but the rules helped him push one of those infractions to an earlier date on his record.
The “Where’s Christian?” game has a new twist. If you got so close to a ban before, escaping it so publicly only months before, I’d have thought you’d take no chances in your window. That said, if you want ‘slam-dunks’, anti-doping needs to do the little things better too. https://t.co/w7A4CM1llW
— Ross Tucker (@Scienceofsport) June 17, 2020
It was a close call for Coleman in 2019, and he was lucky to have competed at the world championships. Maybe he thought his luck would carry on through the rest of 2019, because in December, he missed yet another test, which was another third strike in 12 months.
In his statement on Twitter, Coleman said he believes that the AIU intentionally visited his home when he wasn’t around in an attempt to “catch” him. He also wrote that he thinks the whereabouts system is flawed. Other athletes have spoken up about Coleman’s suspension, and many are not buying his excuses.
My alarm goes off at 9.30pm every single evening! Those close to me have heard this many times, "Oh Adams".
It reminds me of my obligation to have updated whereabouts & update them if I'm not home.
8+ yrs being on whereabouts I have NEVER missed a test. It's not hard! 🤷
— Holly Bradshaw (@HollyBradshawPV) June 17, 2020
“It’s not hard,” tweeted Welsh 400mH champion Dai Greene. “We typically stay at the same address all week. So athletes put slots as 7 a.m. If you know you won’t be at the address, you change it the night before. Set a reminder alarm. It’s an easy habit to develop. It’s part of being an athlete.”
Coleman has only been provisionally suspended by the AIU, but if his charges are confirmed, he will be given a two-year ban from the sport, meaning he’ll miss the Tokyo Games next summer.