American sprinter Christian Coleman has accused the United States Anti-Doping Agency of “going after a big fish” and demanded a “public apology” after a case against him was dropped two days before the hearing earlier this month.
The case against Coleman, the favourite for the 100 metres at the World Championships in Doha later this month, was based on three failures to update his ‘whereabouts’ information – a place and one-hour window that anti-doping bodies can find athletes every day so they can be randomly tested.
According to USADA, the 23-year-old had been unavailable for tests on June 6 last year, and January 16 and April 26 this year, because he was not where he was supposed to be, and three missed tests, or whereabouts filing errors, within 12 months usually triggers an automatic one-year ban.
This would have ruled Coleman out of the 2019 World Championships and cast another dark shadow over a sport that has been plagued by doping scandals for decades.
But the 2018 World Indoor 60m champion, who also won two silver medals at the 2017 World Championships in London, avoided this fate when the World Anti-Doping Agency told USADA that the first failure should be listed as occurring on April 1, the first day of the quarter, and not June 6, which meant the third failure took place more than 12 months later.
USADA acknowledged this in a statement on September 2 that said it was withdrawing the charge after receiving WADA “guidance on the interpretation” of the rules concerning when a failure to update changed whereabouts should be recorded.
The agency’s chief executive Travis Tygart added: “Every athlete is entitled to a presumption of innocence until their case is concluded...(and) this is certainly the case for Mr Coleman, who has been found by USADA not to have committed a whereabouts violation and is fully eligible to compete.”
Having previously said nothing about the case, the US champion has now told his side of the story in a 22-minute YouTube video, which he shared via his Instagram and Twitter pages.
In the video, which is shot in black and white at his house and sees him speaking directly to the camera, Coleman explains the circumstances of each of the missed tests.
The first, he says, came after he picked up an injury and was flown by his sponsor Nike to Oregon for treatment, the second came when a training session at his base was moved one hour earlier, and the third when his coach made a late decision to take him to an athletics meet in Iowa.
Realising this last failure could be trouble, Coleman said he asked to be tested at the event but USADA refused, so his agent arranged for a “third party” to test him anyway. He also claims the doping control officer assured him this would not count as a missed test as they had come outside the scheduled whereabouts window.
Describing the fact that the case was leaked to the media as “a shame on USADA”, particularly when they did not appear “to know their own rules”, Coleman tells his fans that he was “lucky” to have the resources to hire a good lawyer and miss several races while the case was resolved.
He said if he was one of the sport’s lesser lights he could have been “run over” by USADA, which “is designed to protect athletes but I felt like they were going at me and they were after a big fish”.
Claiming he missed two events, including August’s Birmingham Grand Prix, which cost him £120,000 in lost earnings, Coleman said: “I feel like I deserve a public apology, because I’m a victim. I missed two track meets, switched up my schedule and been running with the stress of this situation in my mind.”
He then criticises those who rushed to judgement against him and accused the media of being obsessed with “negative, tabloid” stories.
Coleman finishes the video, however, by saying he feels ready “to go to Doha and bring back some medals” and perhaps even “break some records” in the sprint relay.