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Track and Field

U.S. Anti-Doping Agency withdraws case against sprinter Christian Coleman

Top sprinter Christian Coleman will be eligible for this month's world track and field championships and next year's Olympics after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency dropped his case for missed tests because of a technicality.

Reigning American champ free to race at world championships later this month

Christian Coleman is free to compete at the world track and field championships later this month after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency dropped his case for missed doping tests on a technicality. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Top sprinter Christian Coleman will be eligible for this month's world track and field championships and next year's Olympics after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency dropped his case for missed tests because of a technicality.

Coleman is the reigning U.S. champion and a favourite in the 100 metres, a distance at which he holds the world-leading time over the past three years.

The worlds begin Sept. 27 in Doha, Qatar, where Coleman will be looking to add to the silver medal he won in 2017. In that race, he finished a spot ahead of Usain Bolt, who was running in his last 100.

"While this ordeal has been frustrating and I have missed some competitions that I should not have had to miss, I know that I have never taken any banned substances, and that I have never violated any anti-doping rule," Coleman said in a statement released through his attorney. "I look forward to representing the United States at the upcoming world championships."

Coleman faced a possible sanction for three "whereabouts failures" over a 12-month period. That meant he either did not fill out forms telling authorities where he could be found, or he wasn't where he said he'd be when they came to test.

But the World Anti-Doping Agency's interpretation of the rule backdated his first failure to April 1, 2018, instead of the date it actually occurred, June 6, 2018. His final failure was April 26, 2019. USADA said Monday that because there weren't three failures within 12 months it would not pursue the case.

As a fan of Christian ... I hope he takes it as a warning and doesn't allow this to happen again.— CBC Sports track analyst Donovan Bailey on Christian Coleman being cleared of a doping violation
"Consistent application of the global anti-doping rules is essential in every case," USADA CEO Travis Tygart said. "In this case, we applied the rules to Mr. Coleman in the manner that USADA understands should be applied to any other international-level athlete. We must approach every case with the primary goal of delivering fairness to athletes under the rules and providing transparency and consistency in order to build their trust and support for the anti-doping system."

WATCH | Christian Coleman runs 7th-fastest 100 metres of all-time:

American Christian Coleman ran a world leading time of 9.79 seconds, to win the men's 100m race at the IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels, Belgium. 3:05

Donovan Bailey, who clocked a world-record 9.84 seconds in 1996 to win Olympic gold in Atlanta, had hoped there was a "proper explanation" for Coleman's missed tests.

"There's a clear understanding between the partnership of the athlete and WADA, the IOC [International Olympic Committee] and IAAF [International Association of Athletics Federations]," the CBC Sports track analyst said Monday.

"As a fan of Christian and the fact I do not like negative news about track and field, especially sprinters, I hope he takes it as a warning and doesn't allow this to happen again."

The 23-year-old Coleman, who ran this season's world-leading time of 9.81 in June, had faced a Sept. 4 hearing with the USADA.

Track athletes must provide their location each day for a one-hour period for a potential out-of-competition drug test.

Shortly after details about the case went public, Coleman released a statement saying "what has been widely reported concerning filing violations is simply not true," and that he expected to be cleared.

Potential 2-year ban

USADA said in 2018 and 2019, Coleman has provided his whereabouts information on time every quarter and has been tested by USADA on 20 separate occasions.

Both WADA and the organization that handles doping cases for track's international federation has the right to pursue the case, though it's not expected they will.

Had WADA authorities not given him a friendly interpretation of when the clock starts on a whereabouts failure, he could have faced a case with a potential for a two-year ban. An interpretation of the rule in the official WADA document says a "filing failure will be deemed to have occurred on the first day of the quarter for which the Athlete fails to make a [sufficient] filing."

In this case, the first day of the quarter was April 1. Coleman's "filing failure" — not being where he said he would be for a test — came June 6 because he was not in the place he said he'd be in the form filled out April 1. This rule is being rewritten to eliminate confusion for a new version of the code, which takes effect in 2021.

Coleman won a combined six NCAA titles indoors and outdoors in his three years at the University of Tennessee before turning pro after his junior season. He earned his first global athletics medal at the 2017 world championships in London, where he beat current world-record holder Usain Bolt (9.58) to finish second behind fellow American Justin Gatlin.

Last year, Coleman set the indoor world record in the 60 with a 6.34 clocking in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He dealt with a hamstring injury early in the outdoor campaign, dominated upon his return on the Diamond League circuit and capped his season with a world-leading 9.79 to win the Diamond League Final and $50,000 US in Brussels.

With files from CBC Sports

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