Christian Coleman has escaped a suspension. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Christian Coleman has escaped a suspension. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

‘Unreal’: 100m star’s incredible escape

TOP sprinter Christian Coleman will be eligible for this month's world championships and next year's Olympics after the US Anti-Doping Agency dropped his case for missed tests because of an incredible technicality.

Coleman is the reigning US champion and a favourite in the 100m, a distance at which he holds the world-leading time over the past three years.

The worlds begin September 28 in Qatar, where Coleman will be looking to add to the silver medal he won in 2017. In that race, he finished a spot ahead of Usain Bolt, who was running in his last 100m.

Coleman faced a possible sanction for three "whereabouts failures" over a 12-month period. That meant he either did not fill out forms telling authorities where he could be found, or he wasn't where he said he'd be when they came to test.

But the World Anti-Doping Agency's interpretation of the rule backdated his first failure to April 1, 2018, instead of the date it actually occurred, June 6, 2018. His final failure was April 26, 2019.

Had WADA authorities not given him a friendly interpretation of when the clock starts on a whereabouts failure, he could have faced a case with a potential for a two-year ban.

Coleman,left with Justin Gatlin and Usain Bolt at the 2017 world championships.  EPA/JEAN-CHRISTOPHE BOTT
Coleman,left with Justin Gatlin and Usain Bolt at the 2017 world championships. EPA/JEAN-CHRISTOPHE BOTT JEAN-CHRISTOPHE BOTT

An interpretation of the rule in the official WADA document says a "filing failure will be deemed to have occurred on the first day of the quarter for which the athlete fails to make a (sufficient) filing."

In this case, the first day of the quarter was April 1. Coleman's "filing failure" - not being where he said he would be for a test - came June 6 because he was not in the place he said he'd be in the form filled out April 1.

This rule is being rewritten to eliminate confusion for a new version of the code, which takes effect in 2021.

American distance runner Kara Goucher was bemused by the ruling. "Imagine breaking a really big rule with big consequences, only to discover a new rule which makes prior rule useless," she tweeted.

"So future athletes with whereabouts failures - three missed tests in a 12 month period, with WADA's approval, can be changed to a 14 month period. No worries. Unreal."

USADA said Monday that because there weren't three failures within 12 months it would not pursue the case.

"Consistent application of the global anti-doping rules is essential in every case," USADA CEO Travis Tygart said. 

"In this case, we applied the rules to Mr. Coleman in the manner that USADA understands should be applied to any other international-level athlete. We must approach every case with the primary goal of delivering fairness to athletes under the rules and providing transparency and consistency in orderto build their trust and support for the anti-doping system."

USADA said in 2018 and 2019, Coleman has provided his whereabouts information on time every quarter and has been tested by USADA on 20 separate occasions.

Both WADA and the organisation that handles doping cases for track's international federation has the right to pursue the case, though it's not expected they will.

Shortly after details about the case went public, Coleman released a statement saying "what has been widely reported concerning filing violations is simply not true," and that he expected to be cleared.