Christian Coleman, the world’s fastest man for the last three years, is fighting for his reputation over an alleged series of missed drugs tests.
Top-level sources confirmed to Sportsmail yesterday that the 23-year-old American, who was given a seven-figure sponsorship deal by Nike in 2017 after emerging as the successor to Usain Bolt, is disputing one of three whereabouts failures it is claimed he has accumulated over the last 12 months.
But if Coleman is unsuccessful in having one of the three strikes removed, he faces a lengthy ban that would not only rule him out of next month’s World Championships in Qatar, but the 2020 Olympics.
According to the United States Anti-Doping Agency website: “Any cumulation of three missed tests or filing failures in a 12-month period can result in a potential anti-doping rule violation, and a period of ineligibility of up to two years for a first violation.”
That would be a devastating blow for a sport that was quick to make Coleman one of the poster boys of track and field in the wake of Bolt’s retirement in 2017.
Last night, there were also rumours that other American sprinters could have an issue with the whereabouts system.
It is understood there are high-level talks going on between World Anti-Doping, United States Anti-Doping and the IAAF’s athletics integrity unit about the case, with Coleman’s legal team disputing at least one of the alleged where-abouts violations.
There appears to be an issue because, while all missed tests or whereabouts failures fall under WADA’s anti-doping administration management system (ADAMS), at least two different testing bodies are thought to be involved in Coleman’s case.
A source said: “There are certainly questions that need to be answered here.”
Coleman, who was beaten to 100 metres gold at the World Championships in London two years ago by Justin Gatlin – twice banned for doping himself – is the favourite for gold in Qatar and at Tokyo 2020.
He has already set a world record over 60m indoors and became the seventh fastest man in history last year when he clocked 9.79 seconds for 100m, also recording the fastest time over the distance for the last three seasons.
Coleman was due to compete at the Birmingham Diamond League meeting last Sunday but withdrew two days before citing “complications occurring after practice this week”.
Under the ADAMS system, athletes have to provide details of where they will be for one hour every day in case they are required for testing.
A whereabouts failure is classified as one of two types: a filing failure or a missed test. The specific circumstances surrounding Coleman’s alleged whereabouts failures are unclear.
Britain’s Christine Ohuruogu served a 12-month ban in 2006, prior to winning her Olympic gold and two world 400m titles, following whereabouts failures.
Sportsmail revealed that Sir Mo Farah was on the cusp of a ban after missing two tests prior to his London 2012 success, the four-time Olympic champion memorably claiming he could not hear his doorbell when UK Anti-Doping officials repeatedly tried to reach him.
Athletes have proved successful in contesting whereabouts failures in the past. British cyclist Lizzie Deignan – then Armitstead – was facing a ban before the 2016 Rio Olympics, but won a case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport shortly before the Games and had one of her three strikes erased.
Sportsmail received no response after repeated attempts to contact Coleman’s agent in the US.