The United States’ 100-metre world champion Christian Coleman faces a two-year ban after he was provisionally suspended for ‘whereabouts failure’ including missed tests – a violation of anti-doping rules. In his defence, Coleman has said there is no record of anyone (anti-doping authorities) going to his home and added his parents later gave him a doorbell camera to ensure that there is a record of future visits.
The 400 metre world champion, another young star, Salwa Eid Nazer, faces a similar sanction. Closer home, five Indian cricketers have also been served notices for not updating their ‘whereabouts’. So why are high-profile athletes falling foul of a seemingly simple rule of keeping anti-doping watchdogs in the loop about where they will be during a predetermined time slot every day and not being there when the inspectors come to collect samples?
Why is submitting whereabouts important?
Whereabouts filings is the process of feeding details into a database of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) about where one will be for a one-hour time slot everyday — say 7 am to 8 am or 3 pm to 4 pm. This information helps anti-doping officers travel to the given address, without prior notice, and collect samples (blood and/or urine). Out-of-competition testing has been proven to be an effective way to check if athletes are doping during their off-period or when they are not competing and are at home or at a training base. “No advance notice testing”, as the strategy is called, is also an effective deterrent.
What details does an athlete have to give?
Whereabouts filings have to include the address of where an athlete is living and also additional information as to where they will be while competing and training for the upcoming quarter. But the athlete is also encouraged to give details about her/his whereabouts outside the 60-minute slot.
Who is required to file whereabouts?
Athletes who are part of the Registered Testing Pool (RTP) created by the national anti-doping agency or an international federation will have to submit details. The details of these athletes will be made available to the World Anti-Doping Agency via the ADAMS (anti-doping administration and management system) database. Athletes included in the RTP are those ‘highest-priority athletes’, including medal winners at major games.
If an athlete is to be tested more than three times a year (out of competition), has prior anti-doping rule violations and has shown sudden improvements in performances, the athlete can be added to the RTP. An athlete whose name is added or removed from the RTP has to be notified about the change in status.
What constitutes a missed test?
An athlete would be deemed to have “missed a test” if she/he is not available for testing at the given location during the 60-minute slot submitted and updated through ADAMS when dope control officers arrive for the purpose of collecting samples.
How does whereabouts failure lead to anti-doping rule violation?
Three missed tests — an athlete being not available for testing when officers come for sample collection during the one-hour slot — during a 12-month period amount to an anti-doping rule violation and an athlete can be provisionally suspended. In addition, a combination of failure to file/accurately update whereabouts and missed tests, which add up to a total of three instances in 12 months, is also a rule violation.
What is Coleman’s take on his suspension?
Coleman put out a statement on Wednesday claiming that he was shopping for Christmas on December 9, 2019 (January 16 and April 26, 2019, were two other instances) when anti-doping officers came to his house to collect samples. The 24-year-old, one of the biggest stars of track and field in the post-Usain Bolt era, has accused officers of purposely trying to get him to “miss a test”. In addition to the 100 metres gold at the 2019 Doha world championship, he was part of the United States 4×100 metres relay team which won gold. Coleman said he was in the weight-training room on January 16 last year and took responsibility for a “filing failure” on April 26.
Why did Coleman install a camera on his door?
“Don’t tell me I missed a test on December 9th 2019 if you sneak up on my door and parked outside the gate… there’s no record of anyone coming to my place,” Coleman said on Twitter. He claimed nobody tried to call him on his phone when the door was unanswered on December 9. He further stated he was at a mall, just five minutes away, and can produce multiple receipts for shopping and food to prove where he was. In his defence, Coleman says the Athletics Integrity Unit (which oversees drug tests in track and field) came and collected his samples two days later without any issues. He was also tested when quarantine was in force.
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Coleman’s parents got him a doorbell camera for Christmas after the ‘missed test’ to ensure in the future there is proof that people were actually at the door and rang the bell.
He also expressed what athletes who fly around the world go through. “I have had the app freeze and stop working for me before I had to take off for a flight and I almost lost my mind worrying that someone could be trying to come and test me while I am in the air.”
What about Salwa Eid Naser, the 400m world champion?
Like Coleman, 22-year-old Salwa could also miss next year’s Tokyo Olympics because of missed tests. However, the case of the Nigerian-born athlete, who competes for Bahrain, is perplexing because she had missed three tests but was allowed to compete at the World Athletics Championships in Doha in September-October. The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) provisionally suspended her on June 4 (Coleman was suspended on May 14 but the sprinter and AIU acknowledged it on Wednesday) after she missed another test in January this year. Salwa came out with a statement which said, “I only missed three drug tests, which is normal. It happens. It can happen to anybody. I don’t want people to get confused in all this, as I would never cheat.”
Are Indian cricketers at fault?
The Board of Control for Cricket in India has told the National Anti-Doping Agency that a ‘password’ problem was behind five cricketers – Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja, K L Rahul, Smriti Mandhana and Deepti Sharma – failing to update their whereabouts. However, this is the first violation by these cricketers. National Anti-Doping Agency director general Navin Agarwal said the cricket board’s explanation was being reviewed. “The BCCI has claimed they had a problem with the password. If we find their response is genuine, this won’t be considered as a filing failure,” Agarwal said. Cricketers in India don’t file whereabouts on their own but forward it to the BCCI’s anti-doping officer who feeds it into the database.
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