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Track and Field

'Hopefully there's a proper explanation': Donovan Bailey optimistic Coleman won't be banned for missed tests

Donovan Bailey remains optimistic that American Christian Coleman, the world's top 100-metre runner this season, will be cleared of any wrongdoing in September after allegedly missing three drug tests in 12 months, which is the equivalent of a doping failure.

'There are very few men blessed to be in the position Christian is,' says former world-record holder

Top-ranked sprinter Christian Coleman could miss this year's world championships and next summer's Olympics should he be ruled guilty of missing three drug tests in 12 months at a hearing with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency on Sept. 4. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Donovan Bailey likes Christian Coleman, the world's top 100-metre runner this season, and feels the young American possesses "all the tools" to be the spokesperson of track and field. It might be part of the reason he's optimistic Coleman won't be suspended for this year's world championships and 2020 Olympics.

The sprinter's prospects for the Summer Games in Tokyo might be in jeopardy after he allegedly missed three drug tests over 12 months, which can be treated as a positive test and doping violation.

"I was quite surprised [by the report] because there are very few men blessed to be in the position Christian is," said Bailey, who clocked a world-record 9.84 seconds in 1996 to win Olympic gold in Atlanta. "There is an immense responsibility when you're the No. 1 sprinter in the world or a potential world and Olympic champion.

"Hopefully there's a proper explanation [for the missed tests] and that it was a silly mistake where he was travelling [and unavailable] or his phone battery died."

Track athletes must provide their location each day for a one-hour period for a potential out-of-competition drug test. Coleman has said reports he had committed whereabouts violations are "simply not true."

The 23-year-old, who ran this season's world-leading time of 9.81 in June, faces a Sept. 4 hearing with the United States Anti-Doping Agency at which he'll try to avoid a ban of up to two years, with a ruling expected the next day.

Challenging at least 1 missed test

"I'm not a guy who takes any supplements so I'm never concerned about taking drug tests at any time," Coleman said in a statement last week. "I'm confident the hearing on Sept. 4 will clear the matter and I will compete at the world championships in Doha [Qatar that run Sept. 28 to Oct. 6]."

Coleman was tested at least nine times in 2018 and 11 times this season, according to the USADA database.

It's believed Coleman's legal team is challenging at least one of the missed tests, two of which were directed by the USADA while the Athletics Integrity Unit initiated the third.

It wasn't uncommon for me to be tested 30 to 50 times a year. I never missed one test, so I personally can't see why [anyone] would miss three.— Donovan Bailey on U.S. sprinter Christian Coleman allegedly missing 3 drug tests in 12 months

A whereabouts violation could be reduced to one year, according to the IAAF's anti-doping rules, "depending on the athlete's degree of fault."

The possibility of Coleman missing three drug tests doesn't sit well with Bailey, who prided himself on being available for testing throughout his 10-year career that included world championship and Canadian titles in the 100 and Olympic and world 4x100 relay gold.

Bailey's career followed that of Ben Johnson, the Canadian sprinter who was stripped of his gold medal and 9.79 world mark from the 1988 Seoul Olympics after testing positive for the anabolic steroid stanozolol.

"It was normal for us to be tested constantly [in the 1990s]. It wasn't uncommon for me to be tested 30 to 50 times a year. I never missed one test, so I personally can't see why [anyone] would miss three."

Canada's Donovan Bailey says athletes have to be responsible for everything they put in their body. (Matthew Stockman/ Allsport/Getty Images/File)

Bailey added Coleman and other athletes today have it "a little easier" from when drug testers would arrive on his doorstep unannounced to conduct a random test. If he received a phone call, Bailey would have one to two hours to report to a drug testing location.

Canadian marathoner Rob Watson took to Twitter after the Coleman report and expressed his disappointment.

"I missed one test in my career because I was lazy and didn't update my whereabouts, but the scolding I received & the potential fallout from missing more put the fear of god in me and I never slacked again," he wrote. "This is unacceptable by an athlete on [Coleman's] level."

2018 Diamond League champion

"The deal you sign with the IAAF or IOC [International Olympic Committee] is that you're available for tests at any time," explained the Bailey, a CBC Sports track analyst. "You have to be responsible for everything you put in your body. It takes a lifetime to build a reputation and a nanosecond to lose it."

Coleman, pictured here beating current 100-metre world-record holder Usain Bolt at the 2017 world championships, says reports he committed whereabouts violations are 'simply not true.' (Andy Lyons/Getty Images for IAAF/File)
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.

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

Gray Horn, who coaches track and field at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, suggests to not jump to conclusions about Coleman. 

While there are "no excuses" for Coleman to miss three drug tests as a second-year professional runner, noted Bailey, he has trouble understanding why a young man would potentially throw away a bright future in the sport and seven-figure sponsorship deal with Nike that Coleman signed in 2017.

"Everything indicates he has the mind of a sprinter," said Bailey of Coleman, this year's U.S. outdoor 100 champion. "He's someone who is confident in his abilities, has a great support system at home, great coaches, the backing of a shoe company, a world record."

Bailey's optimism for a positive outcome in the Coleman case is shared by Ato Bolden. The four-time Olympic medallist was coached by Olympic champion John Smith, who formed HSI Sports Agency with Los Angeles lawyer Emanuel Hudson, who now represents Coleman.

"Ato's a supporter of drug-free sport," Bailey said. "Maybe he knows something we don't."

About the Author

Doug Harrison has covered the professional and amateur scene as a senior writer for CBC Sports since 2003. Previously, the Burlington, Ont., native covered the NHL and other leagues for Faceoff.com. Follow the award-winning journalist @harrisoncbc

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