Should Andre De Grasse be favoured to win the Olympic 100m now?
World champ Christian Coleman's ban makes this a wide-open race
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Is Andre De Grasse now the favourite to become the world's fastest man?
The men's 100 metres is the most popular event in the Olympics. And it got even more interesting for Canadians this week when the favourite to win gold next summer in Tokyo, American Christian Coleman, was banned from track and field for two years for missing three doping tests in a 12-month period.
The reigning 100m world champion's agent said the decision would be "immediately" appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. But their chances of winning don't look great. Coleman's legal team has focused on getting the most recent of the three infractions overturned. They've argued that Coleman was out Christmas shopping on Dec. 9 of last year but returned inside of the one-hour window in which he promised he'd be home, only to find that the testers had left. But the judging panel that issued the two-year ban ruled the testers supplied "clear evidence" they were present for the full time period, and that retail receipts proved Coleman was not home at any time during the specified hour. It's also worth noting that Coleman was nearly suspended for the world championships in the fall of 2019 for missing three tests in a 12-month span, but got off on a technicality when the first infraction was backdated.
So, assuming Coleman's appeal is unsuccessful, that means there's no clear Olympic favourite anymore. The title of world's fastest man is suddenly very much up for grabs in Tokyo.
That's exciting for Canadians because Andre De Grasse is one of the top contenders. He won bronze in the 100 at the 2016 Olympics and at the 2015 and '19 world championships. The latter meet proved De Grasse had recovered from the hamstring injuries that ruined his two previous seasons, and further cemented his reputation as a big-race runner. Since bursting onto the scene in 2015 with a surprise bronze at the world championships, De Grasse has won a medal in all five individual events (100 or 200m) he's entered at the world championships or Olympics, and he's also picked up a relay bronze at both the Olympics and the worlds. Plus, at 25, he's still in his physical prime. But he would have been hard-pressed to beat Coleman, whose winning time at the worlds 11 months ago (9.76 seconds) made him the sixth-fastest man in history.
To try and get an idea of how good a shot De Grasse has at becoming Canada's first Olympic 100m champ since Donovan Bailey in 1996, let's take a look at the other top contenders in a non-Coleman world:
The most obvious next man up is always the silver medallist, and Gatlin finished second to Coleman at the last world championships and second to Usain Bolt at the last Summer Olympics. The American also won the 2017 world title (beating Bolt in his final individual race), the 2005 world title and the 2004 Olympic gold. Those last two victories came before he served a four-year doping ban. If you can get past that, Gatlin is undoubtedly one of the greatest sprinters of all time.
He'll also turn 39 in February, making him nearly a decade older than Bolt was for his farewell performance at the 2017 worlds. But Gatlin somehow remains one of the very best in the world. Including his 9.89 to take silver at the worlds in Doha and a 9.87 to finish second to Coleman at the Prefontaine Classic in California, Gatlin ran four of the world's 13 fastest 100m times last year. That is simply wild for someone his age.
His best event is the 200, but don't be surprised if the 23-year-old American also ends up being the Olympic 100-metre favourite. Only Coleman ran a faster time last year than the 9.86 Lyles laid down at a Diamond League meet in Shanghai, where he beat Coleman in a photo finish.
Lyles elected not to run the 100 at the 2019 worlds, where he beat De Grasse for gold in the 200. But he's indicated he wants to go for the Olympic double in Tokyo, and he's clearly got the talent to pull it off.
Bailey, who is now a track analyst for CBC Sports, believes the 100m event in Tokyo is a "toss-up" between half a dozen or so runners if Coleman is out. Besides the guys we already covered, he identifies South Africa's Akani Simbine (fourth place behind Coleman, Gatlin and De Grasse at the 2019 worlds), Britain's Zharnel Hughes (four sub-10-second races last year) and Jamaican veteran Yohan Blake (the 2011 world champ). Bailey also likes Canadian Aaron Brown's potential (he finished eighth at last year's worlds) if he improves his starts. For more of Bailey's takes on the (presumably) wide-open field in Tokyo, read this piece by CBC Sports' Doug Harrison.
The Arizona Coyotes cut ties with controversial draft pick Mitchell Miller. A report published this week by a local newspaper detailed how Miller bullied and used racist language toward a Black boy with developmental disabilities while they were growing up in a suburb of Toledo, Ohio. The Coyotes said they were aware of this when they drafted Miller in the fourth round earlier this month, but wanted to give him "a second chance to prove himself." That decision was criticized by the Hockey Diversity Alliance, which includes some active NHL players, and today the Coyotes announced they've renounced their rights to Miller. Read more about the team's changing course here.
Former Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon was cleared of wrongdoing. Tallon was accused anonymously of making racially derogatory comments during the team's brief stay in the Toronto playoff bubble. This was just before he was let go on Aug. 10 after Florida lost its qualifying-round series to the Islanders. But the NHL announced today that an independent investigation could not substantiate the claims against him, and that the league has cleared him of any wrongdoing. Read more about the conclusion here.
The Ontario Hockey League finally announced its plans for the season. It's targeting a Feb. 4 start date for a 40-game season (down from the usual 68). The playoff field will also be cut, from 16 teams to eight. It was also announced that the Memorial Cup tournament — for the champions of the OHL, Western Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, plus a host team — will start June 17 in Oshawa or Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. But there's still work to do. The OHL needs the approval of the Ontario government, which could be tricky considering the minister in charge of sports suggested that won't happen unless the league removes bodychecking and other forms of close physical contact. Also, the OHL has three U.S.-based teams and the border remains closed to non-essential travel. The league said today that teams will play "primarily against opponents in their geographic region," but the alignment and schedule are still being worked out. The WHL plans to start its season Jan. 8 but is also still seeking government approval. The QMJHL opened Oct. 2 but has already had to suspend both its Quebec-based divisions because of coronavirus outbreaks on multiple teams and government restrictions. Read more about the OHL's plans here and more about junior hockey's many current challenges here.
Tony La Russa is back in the dugout. And back where he started. Forty-one years after they gave him his first big-league manager's job, the Chicago White Sox re-hired the 76-year-old as their new (old) manager today. La Russa last managed in 2011, when his 16-year run with St. Louis ended with his third World Series championship (he also won with the Cardinals in 2006 and with Oakland in 1989). Believe it or not, La Russa is not the oldest manager in major-league history. The late, great Connie Mack managed until he was 87. More recently, Jack McKeon was 80 when the Marlins rehired him as an interim replacement for the rest of the 2011 season. Also, just a few weeks ago, the Houston Texans made 73-year-old Romeo Crennel the oldest head coach in NFL history. And you know about the U.S. Presidential race. Pretty good time for old guys right now.
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