Christian Coleman stormed to victory in the 100 metres at the World Championships in Doha on Saturday, emphatically shrugging off the missed drug test controversy which had threatened to derail his career.
The 23-year-old American, who escaped a doping ban earlier this month on a technicality, swept over the finish line in a world-leading personal best of 9.76sec to claim his first major outdoor championship gold medal.
Defending champion Justin Gatlin took silver in 9.89sec at the age of 37 while Canada’s Andre De Grasse claimed bronze in 9.90sec.
It completed a flawless championship campaign for Coleman, who had been the only man to duck under 10 seconds in both Friday’s opening rounds and Saturday’s semi-finals.
Coleman’s win in perfect conditions at the Khalifa Stadium was never in doubt, the stocky 2017 World Championships silver medallist exploding out of the blocks to take the lead over the opening 20 metres.
The American let out a roar of triumph as he crossed the line before punching the air in jubilation after a performance which makes him the sixth fastest man in history.
“I am humble, I am just here to win titles,” an elated Coleman said afterwards. “It is an incredible time, it is a PR for me. I think the sky’s the limit, I think I still have a lot of things I can work on and improve, I think I can keep dropping my time,” added the 60m indoor world record holder. The victory was the culmination of a rollercoaster season for Coleman, whose participation in the championships had been in doubt until only three weeks ago.
Coleman, who has strongly denied ever using performance-enhancing drugs, was left facing a lengthy suspension in August after it emerged he had registered three drug-testing “whereabouts” failures in a 12-month period.
The violation is regarded as equivalent to a failed drug test and often followed by a ban of up to two years.
Yet Coleman avoided a sanction when the case against him was dropped in early September because of a technicality. Coleman had recorded his first whereabouts failure on June 6 last year, before two more offences in January 16 and April 26 this year.
However the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) abruptly withdrew the charges on September 2 after a review of the rules regarding how the 12-month window should be calculated.
Coleman, who has previously criticised USADA for bringing the case against him, again protested his innocence following Saturday’s win.
“I did nothing wrong,” Coleman said. “To me I’m just a young black man living my dream. “It’s kind of disappointing that someone would leak that information to try and smear my reputation. I just keep doing me and representing the sport the right way. Like I said, I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Coleman’s win on Saturday leaves him as the man to beat heading into 2020 and the Tokyo Olympics, where he aims to claim the now retired Usain Bolt’s throne.
Coleman however played down suggestions that he was ready to fill the void left by triple Olympic 100m and 200m champion Bolt’s departure from athletics.
“I don’t think anyone will be able to replicate what he (Bolt) did in the sport,” Coleman said. “All you can try and do is be the best that you can be, not try to be like him. He’s always going to be a part of the sport.
“But if I continue working hard, honing my craft and being the best I can, I definitely think I can win gold medals.”—APP