Missed tests saga taints Chris Coleman's 100m world title
DOHA – What a difference one month can make.
In late August American sprinter Christian Coleman's career was in shambles as he faced a ban for missing three doping tests.
On Saturday night he became the new sprint king of the world in succession of Usain Bolt, at least on the track.
Coleman beat Bolt for silver, behind Justin Gatlin, in the great Jamaican's last 100 metres race at the 2017 worlds.
The 23-year-old went on to claim the world indoor title and lowered his personal best to 9.79 seconds last year, and leading the way a third straight season was the man to beat in Doha.
But all that was in jeopardy when the US anti-doping body USADA said in late August it was investigating because he was suspected to have missed three doping tests within one year which triggers an automatic one-year ban and would have made him miss Doha and the 2020 Olympics.
However, the World Anti-Doping Agency then ended the case by clarifying that so-called filing failures are dated to the first day of a quarter and not the actual date - which in Cleman's case meant he didn't miss three tests in one year.
That allowed him to run in Doha where he was imperious in all rounds from the heats (9.98) and semi-finals (9.88) to the final where he stormed away from all rivals to win in a personal best 9.76 seconds.
"I've been blessed with incredible talent and tonight I was able to show it," he said after the final at half-empty Khalifa International Stadium which was hyped by a spectacular pre-race laser and light show in the build-up, including all finalists' names beamed onto the track.
"It was a crazy feeling. To add my name to the list of the legendary guys who've come before me is an honour and a blessing. It's a great feeling, too good to be true. To make it here and come out with gold is incredible."
Coleman added he didn't want to be compared with Bolt, saying: "I don't think anyone will be able to reciprocate what he did in the sport. All you can do is be the best you can be and not try to be like him."
However, whether he also qualifies to be the new face of the 100m or of athletics in general remains debatable because of the missed tests.
"It completely disqualifies him, at this point, from ever being that face of the sport. This will follow him, as it should," was the blunt assessment of former 200m and 400m great Michael Johnson to the BBC.
"I think this is an incredibly important issue around the sport because Christian Coleman was being touted to replace Usain Bolt as the big star of the sport."
Coleman's victory in Doha follows that of Gatlin in London which was marred by jeers because the 37-year-old has served two doping bans which have made him a villain of sorts, as opposed to the almighty Bolt who never failed a drug test.
Nor has Coleman, who demanded an apology from USADA after being cleared, speaking of "a shame" but in general seemed unfazed by the controversy, including a barrage of questions at the post-race news conference when he also dismissed Johnson's remarks.
"Michael Johnson doesn't pay my bills or sign my cheques so I don't necessarily care what he has to say," he said.
"I guess I can be more mature about it and more diligent about updating the system, but I did everything the right way and tried to be a model citizen and a good model for the sport."
Other athletes have also been critical of Coleman and Britain's Guardian paper grudgingly acknowledged on its website he was probably now a face of the sport, "for better or worse."
But Coleman also got some support right from the top of the sport in the form of IAAF president Sebastian Coe.
While noting that "one missed whereabouts should ring serious alarm bells" he named the final dropping of the case "a grown-up" and "sensible approach" on Friday and said Coleman had every right to excel in Doha.
"I am pleased Coleman is here and I want to make sure he is given every opportunity to be one of the faces of these championships," Coe said.
Said Coleman: "I think the face of the sport goes to the people who are putting up good performances and representing the sport in the right way."dpa