REIGNING WORLD 100 CHAMPION Christian Coleman may well not be racing at the Olympic Trials or Games next year, after CAS shredded his alibi for one of his whereabouts failures and slapped the No. 1 Ranker with a 2-year ban.
His latest legal battle (“Last Lap,” July/August) hinged on a dispute over where exactly he was on December 09, 2019, the date of his third whereabouts failure, the first two misses dating back to his narrow escape on a similar charge pre-Doha.
Coleman had maintained that he had come home before the end of the testing hour (7:15–8:15pm), and that the testers were already gone, having not waited long enough. He said that he had grabbed some food from a Chipotle then had returned before 8:15 to watch the kickoff of Monday Night Football before running out to do some Christmas shopping at Walmart.
AIU investigators produced the receipts, however, noting that Coleman’s errands started no later than 7:13, that he bought the food at 7:53 and that he had purchased 16 items at Walmart at 8:22. The NFL start had been at 8:15—in short, there was no believable way the sprinter could have watched the kickoff and traveled to the nearby Walmart to buy 16 items in less than 7 minutes.
“It is obvious that in fact the Athlete did not go home until after making his 8:22pm purchase. We are comfortably satisfied that this is what happened,” read the decision.
Despite Coleman’s insistence that the testers had departed early, CAS pointed out that the rules require testing subjects to be available for the entire hour they have listed.
In addition, the testers demonstrated that they had indeed waited outside Coleman’s apartment for the full 60-minutes and “would undoubtedly have noticed if the Athlete had driven up and entered the apartment, whether through the front or garage door.”
Coleman argued that he had not received a phone call from the testers as he had in previous instances. However, the rules don’t provide for a phone call and testers had been specifically instructed not to make one in this case.
The AIU’s out-of-competition manager, Raphael Roux, said he decided not to have the testers call for 3 reasons:
“(i) the Athlete had in the relatively recent past missed 4 tests, and missed tests were always a warning sign in relation to an athlete
“(ii) in the past there had been a combination of very good performances by the Athlete and missed tests
“(iii) he had an impression that the Athlete might have been forewarned on previous tests.”
While two years is the standard suspension for a major first-time offence, CAS had the option to give Coleman a 1-year ban “depending on the Athlete’s degree of fault.” That would have made him eligible for the ’21 Games. However, the court instead opted for the full penalty, explaining, “The consequences for athletes who are subject to 3 missed tests are draconian. We regret to say that we do not think there is any mitigation which can be fairly relied upon to reduce the sanction from the 2-year period. Unfortunately, we see this case as involving behavior by the Athlete as very careless at best and reckless at worst.”
This was not Coleman’s first dance with whereabouts violations. In August ’19 USADA charged him with 3 violations within a 12-month span. Those charges were withdrawn a month later after one of the aborted attempts came outside the testing window, allowing Coleman to compete in the World Championships, where he won the 100 and anchored the winning 4×1.
Did that previous episode affect Coleman’s ban this time? CAS says no, but felt it was important to look at: “Of course, the fact that the athlete had a narrow escape in relation to USADA is not a reason for lengthening the ban in the present case. But in considering the question of Fault, it is material to look at all the circumstances of the case.”
It appears that Coleman’s harsh criticism of the AIU and accusations of its setting him up did not play well with the court either: “[he] denied the offence, and persisted in an exculpatory version of events… that was simply untrue.”
Though the AIU had requested that Coleman’s results be nullified from December 09 on (only one meet, his USATF Indoor win, would have been affected), the CAS rejected that, ruling that fairness dictated that the 2-year sanction would suffice.
The suspension will end on May 13, 2022. Coleman has until November 22 of this year to appeal the sentence.
The full decision can be read here.