The fastest man in the world — and one of the United States’s budding Olympic stars — is mired in a doping case that could threaten his eligibility for next summer’s Tokyo Games, according to media reports.
Christian Coleman missed three drug tests in a 12-month period, which could trigger a suspension that bars the 23-year old sprinter from this year’s IAAF world championships and next year’s Olympics, according to reports from the Associated Press and the Daily Mail, both citing unnamed sources.
Coleman has posted the fastest 100-meter time of the year — 9.81 seconds — and was expected to be one of the United States’ biggest stars in Tokyo, in line to assume Usain Bolt’s throne in track and field’s signature sprint race.
Both Coleman and the USADA issued statements Saturday confirming that the sprinter had been charged with the violation and that there would be a hearing about the matter on September 4. A three-person independent arbitration panel will hear the case and issue a decision by the end of the following day.
Coleman gave his statement to NBC’s Ato Boldon about the charge, saying he is confident the hearing will clear the matter.
“I’m not a guy who takes supplements at all, so I’m never concerned about taking drug tests, at any time,” Coleman said. “What has been widely reported concerning filing violations is simply not true.”
Coleman is disputing at least one of the missed tests, according to the Daily Mail, and his ability to race in the world’s biggest events in the next year could hinge on those efforts. He could be facing a two-year ban from the sport if he’s unable to present a compelling defense.
Missing a drug test — an athlete’s failure to be available or share his or her whereabouts with drug testers — is treated as a doping violation, and three misses can be treated as a positive test.
Missing more than one test is unusual and can raise red flags for doping agencies. Kara Goucher, a long-distance runner who competed at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, commented on the matter via Twitter on Thursday: “Missing 3 tests in a 12 month period is bad. You can literally text an update of your location at any time.”
Coleman won the national title in the 100 at last month’s U.S. championships. He has had his sights set on avenging his second-place finish from the 2017 world championships at this year’s championships, which begin next month in Doha, Qatar.
He has posted the world’s fastest time each of the past three seasons, and his personal-best finish of 9.79 came last year at a Diamond League event in Brussels.
Coleman ran at the University of Tennessee before turning professional in 2017, when he signed a multiyear contract with Nike. As a 20-year-old, Coleman competed for the United States’s 4x100 relay team at the Rio Olympics.
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