World 100 Meter Champion Christian Coleman to Miss Olympics Despite Ban Reduced

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The Court of Arbitration for Sport announced its decision to reduce 100 meter world champion Christian Coleman's suspension for missing drug tests from two years to 18 months after his latest appeal. 

Coleman's ban started on May 14, 2020, which means he is not eligible to compete again until November 2021 and he will miss the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. 

“While I appreciate that the arbitrators correctly found that I am a clean athlete, I am obviously disappointed that I will miss the Olympic Games this summer,” Coleman said in a statement issued by his lawyer. “I look forward to representing the United States at both World Championships in 2022, especially the first-ever World Championships held in the United States next summer where I plan to defend my world title against a new Olympic champion in the 100 meters.”

In October 2020, the Athletics Integrity Unit (track and field's independent anti-doping watchdog) determined that he recorded three whereabouts failures for anti-doping tests over a 12-month period. The AIU called Coleman's "attitude to his obligations can fairly be described as entirely careless, perhaps even reckless" and "rather than admit his fault, he riled responses which strongly criticized the authorities for their conduct, submitting through his counsel in highly tendentious terms that the authorities developed a strategy in an effort to catch him out, denied the offense, and persisted in an exculpatory version of events."

The ban was reduced since CAS "found the athlete’s degree of negligence to be lower than that established" in the AIU's decision.

Coleman has been training in Lexington, Kentucky and his appeal was an attempt to try and get his ban reduced so that he could return in time to compete at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in June. Coleman is the reigning world champion in the 100 meters and was widely considered a favorite to win gold at the Summer Games. From 2017 to 2019, he was the fastest man in the 100 meters. His personal best of 9.76, has him as the sixth-fastest man of all time.

The CAS hearing was held in February. This was not the first whereabouts issue concerning Coleman. In 2019, Coleman's missed tests were revealed when the United States Anti-Doping agency charged Coleman with the three whereabouts failures but then dropped its case when one of the missed tests was not counted due to a technicality.

The Athletics Integrity Unit cited Coleman with missed a test on Jan. 16, 2019, recorded a filing failure for a test attempt on April 26, 2019 and missed a test on Dec. 9, 2019. For the December missed test on Dec. 9, 2019, a doping control officer authorized by World Athletics (track and field's global governing body) arrived to conduct an out-of-competition test at Coleman's Lexington residence. 

His whereabouts information said that he would be home from 7:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. that day. The doping control officer and blood collection assistant provided evidence that they were at his apartment at 7:15 p.m. and rang the doorbell every 10 minutes but no one answered. 

Coleman was out Christmas shopping but argued that he was home before the end of his one-hour availability because he watched the start of that night's Monday Night Football Game at 8:15 p.m. The AIU reviewed time stamps on his receipts and determined he was not home in time.

From Friday's CAS decision

"The Athlete was not at home during the 60-minute time slot on the day of the out-of-competition doping control (9 December 2019), as he should have been, and the Athlete should have been on ‘high-alert’ on that day, given the two existing whereabout failures against him. On the other hand, however, had the Athlete been called by the Doping Control Officer, he would have been able to return to his apartment during the 60-minute window and a test would have been concluded. Although a telephone call during the 60-minute window was not required by the rules, it was nevertheless reasonable for the Athlete to expect such a call, as a matter of standard practice among other Doping Control Officers."

Coleman has never tested positive for any banned substance. The CAS panel of arbitrators also noted there is no evidence Coleman was looking to avoid being tested.