World 100m champion Christian Coleman has been told that going on a Christmas shopping trip is no defence for missing a drugs test under World Anti-Doping Agency rules – and neither is a tester obliged to call him to find out where he is.
The 24-year-old American, who is said to earn close to a seven-figure salary from his sponsors Nike and faces the prospect of a two-year ban that could see him miss next year’s Olympics, launched a lengthy defence of his actions on social media hours before he was provisionally suspended by the Athletics Integrity Unit because of three “whereabouts” failures in 2019. Coleman took particular umbrage with the circumstances surrounding the third of his missed tests, on 9 December last year, saying he was Christmas shopping “five minutes away” and should have been telephoned by testers, “who didn’t even bother to call me”.
“I think the attempt on December 9 was a purposeful attempt to get me to miss a test,” he added. “I’ve been contacted by phone literally every other time I’ve been tested …” Why would the AIU tell him not to call me?!”
The AIU said it will not comment on the specifics of an ongoing case, but added in a statement that its drug control officers were specifically asked not to call athletes as it “provides an opportunity for evasion or other improper conduct which can limit the efficacy of testing. However athletes included in the World Athletics International Registered Testing Pool must provide a 60-minute time slot (at any time between 5am and 11pm) and a specific location where they will be available for testing on any given date. Athletes are accountable for a missed test if they are not available at the specific location they have chosen for that one hour period.”
The AIU also stressed that Wada’s rules also make it “clear” that a phone call to an athlete to inform them they want to conduct a test is discretionary “and the lack of any telephone call does not give the athlete a defence to the assertion of a missed test”.
Coleman, who insists he has never used performance enhancing drugs, also faced a ban last year for three whereabouts failures but was cleared because of a technicality under anti-doping rules, which state the date of a first missed test should be pushed back to the first day of a testing quarter.
The European 400m hurdles champion Eilidh Doyle was one of several British athletes to express an opinion about Coleman’s three missed tests. “Even when I was in hospital for 3 days, having my baby, my first thought was I better update my whereabouts. It’s just what has to be done to ensure credibility within our sport. #Cleansport,” she wrote.
Meanwhile Coleman, who also queried whether the tester had turned up at the right address on December 9, has called for “reform” within the sport. “This isn’t justice for anybody. Not me, not them, not the sport, who wins here?” he said. “I am willing to take a drug test every single day for the rest of my career for all I care to prove my innocence.”