Christian Coleman did not go missing. When it came to his whereabouts, he was right there in plain sight, on the top of the world as the fastest man in the game. And yet we sigh.
His run of 9.76sec to take the 100m gold was quite something, of course. Likewise his domination of these Championships, which saw him clock the fastest time in each of the three rounds. Stage by stage by stage, 9.98sec to 9.88sec to 9.76sec, he had no need for the VAR, no need for a second look. Daylight, every time.
There have to be mentions for Justin Gatlin and Andre De Grasse, who respectively took silver in 9.89sec and bronze in 9.90sec, but it was a one-man show, really. Gun to tape. And in isolation, in a vacuum, that should be satisfying – a clear answer to a clear question of who is the fastest, the best. Except that would be a little daft, wouldn’t it? We all know too much now, and as the pitifully small crowds in Doha cheered this 23-year-old from America, it seemed necessary to remember the inconvenient details.
To remember the shades of grey that come from the fact he was only competing because he escaped a ‘whereabouts’ doping charge on a technicality a few weeks back.
His missed test and two filing failures might have been within rules that even the US Anti-Doping Agency didn’t fully understand, but any time there is doubt over a champion in athletics, only a muppet looks the other way.
That, quite simply, is the baggage of the 100m, a distance at which nine of the 10 fastest men in history have had some kind of brush with doping authorities.
If it’s unfair and unjust that Coleman comes with such caveats – as a man who has never tested positive for anything and denies ever taking drugs – then it is only because he didn’t pay enough attention. And that’s on him, which is why Michael Johnson was right to say on Friday that he can never now be the face of his sport. So all hail your new king, successor to Justin Gatlin, twice banned himself.
When the elder American, 37, won the world title in 2017, it was said the sport had the champion it deserved. Wonderfully wry, that, on a dark topic. Now, with the sixth fastest time in history, Coleman takes the sceptre. Make of it what you want.
On less significant matters, Zharnel Hughes of Britain was sixth in 10.03sec. The European champion was slow from his blocks and never recovered; Coleman, the world indoor champion, is always a quick starter and he never looked like losing his lead from the first few strides. His winning time was faster than Usain Bolt’s World Championship runs in both Beijing and Moscow.