Coleman Struggling To Find Sympathy Among Elite T&F Peers

Coleman Struggling To Find Sympathy Among Elite T&F Peers

Christian Coleman argues that his third whereabouts violation was not his fault. Some of his fellow track and field elites aren't buying it.

Jun 19, 2020 by Lincoln Shryack
87. Christian Coleman Responds To Suspension

The crux of Christian Coleman’s argument that he arrived back at home on December 9, 2019, during his drug testing window and therefore should not have incurred a whereabouts violation rests on whether or not you trust the sprinter. 

The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), for as little information they’ve provided on the case, apparently do not, as an investigation into Coleman’s activities that night was not enough to spare him from a provisional suspension on Wednesday. Their version of the facts have not yet been released, but according to Coleman, a set of receipts from a nearby mall have not worked to prove that he was home when he said he was.

The world champion’s pleas that he didn’t receive a phone call alerting him to the drug tester have also fallen on deaf ears, as the AIU states they are under no obligation to do so. Coleman’s case is at the mercy of his own word— and perhaps an incorrect address— and that so far has failed to clear a man who has previously struggled to dot his Is and cross his Ts under the whereabouts system

Embroiled in his second whereabouts controversy within a year, Coleman is asking the track world to believe that he is a victim of a system deliberately targeting him. For many, that's a step they're not willing to take.

Now the 100m Olympic gold medal favorite is in danger of missing the Olympics unless his appeal is met with more sympathy than the initial AIU investigation. That very well could happen— there’s plenty of precedent for it happening— but there does seem to be a disconnect between what Coleman believes is fair and what is expected of one of the most high profile track and field athletes in the world.

The fastest man in the world each of the last three seasons acknowledged his understanding that his gold level status in the sport comes with the added responsibility of being tested more than the average athlete. But for him, that responsibility did not extend to him taking extra precaution by staying at home throughout the extent of his testing window, and it’s that disregard that his critics cite as proof that Coleman brought this on himself, regardless of the particulars.

For someone like Michael Johnson, who, like Coleman, knows what life is like in track and field’s upper crust, this issue comes down to the 24-year-old not differentiating between what he deems reasonable and what’s in the rules. If you’re not taking the time to familiarize yourself with every aspect of your job, who’s to say there’s not another shortcut you’re willing to take?

While it is possible that the doping control officer had the wrong address for Coleman and was banging on the incorrect door every 10 minutes for an hour, one has to believe either that the AIU is operating in bad faith or that their investigation was woefully incompetent. Of course, that could be true, and Coleman’s appeal will likely center around what he says is not his address written on the report.

But it’s telling to me that some of Coleman’s peers see this first as a man not respecting the position he was in as a 100m champion who was already sitting on two strikes.

“I see it as you’re being irresponsible. If it’s the other things, whatever. That’s something that I trust the organizations to figure out,” triple jump world and Olympic champion Christian Taylor told CNN.

“There’s no excuse valid for this. I miss it, I miss it. That’s my mistake. After one (missed test), you should have woken up. After two, it should never happen… When is that light bulb going to go off?”

Coleman says he was back from shopping at the mall inside his testing window, and that he is being unfairly charged since he was not aware that the officer was trying to test him. It’s not wildly far-fetched to believe his account, especially since he had grown accustomed to receiving phone calls about impending tests. 

It’s clear, however, that the AIU doesn’t buy it, and that some of the biggest names in the sport don’t see Coleman as deserving the benefit of the doubt.