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'That could've been me,' two-time Olympic gold winner Christian Taylor reflects on George Floyd's death

Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, Olympic triple jump champion Christian Taylor tells CNN that as a Black man, it "could have been me."

Posted: Jun 20, 2020 1:21 AM
Updated: Jun 20, 2020 1:21 AM

When two-time Olympic gold medal winner Christian Taylor watched the video of George Floyd's death, the first thought that went through his head was: "That could've been me."

Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died in Minneapolis on May 25 after being arrested by a White police officer who forcibly pinned him to the ground for several minutes by kneeling on his neck. All four former officers involved in Floyd's killing are now facing charges.

His death sparked widespread protests across the world in recent weeks.

For Taylor, the thought that "that could've been me" made the incident even more impactful to the triple-jumper.

"That is the difficult situation because when you think of what he was doing or how he was going about it, then that is not very different to me going to a store," the 30-year-old told CNN Sport's Amanda Davies in an Instagram Live chat.

"It was very scary because that was the first time I could really have this fear of how different are our lives and how quickly something can change or something can be taken away and what am I leaving behind."

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'I'm hoping'

Floyd's death has resulted in Black Lives Matter protests calling for racial equality and an end to police brutality.

Despite similar incidents in the past, Taylor insists he is "hoping" that permanent change will finally come from this.

"I want to believe that all those (past incidents) led to this moment and this was the last straw but I am also a realist and there have been catastrophic events that ultimately did not lead to change," Taylor explained.

"We are still here in 2020. At what point will it be enough to topple things over?"

From LeBron James and Steph Curry to Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho, athletes from all areas of the sporting world have voiced their support for the protests.

And instead of putting barriers between people, the unifying goal of equal rights has brought people together, according to Taylor.

"To see that protests are still going on, to see that athletes are still speaking up, to see that it has actually united races," the four-time world champion said.

"There is this wall that constantly gets put up between the races but I'm hoping and believing that it's bringing people closer because of just the informing and education standpoint that people just simply did not know.

"I had board members calling me saying: 'Christian, I had no idea this was your reality. But I will now stand up. I will now speak up.'

"And for me, that's been so encouraging because maybe this was someone who would've watched on the news and said: 'well, that's unfortunate' and gone on with their lives but for some reason, this seed has hit good soil. This seed has really started to get some roots and I can really say I'm standing on hope."

READ: Florida will ban its 'Gator Bait' cheer due to the phrase's racist history

'It's irresponsible'

As well as dealing with emotions from the death of Floyd, Taylor has also had to come to terms with his US teammate Christian Coleman's provisional suspension over a missed drugs test.

On Wednesday, Coleman was provisionally suspended by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) following a third missed drugs test.

The independent body, which combats doping, announced that the reigning world 100m champion had been issued a charge in relation to a "whereabouts failure."

The World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) "whereabouts" system requires athletes to let anti-doping officials know where they'll be for one hour every day, as well as details of overnight accommodation and training venues.

If an athlete fails to do so and commits a "filing failure" three times over a 12-month period, they could face punishment. The American sprinter posted a lengthy statement on his Twitter page Tuesday admitting he missed a drug test on December 9, 2019 -- the third missed test in the space of a year -- but alleges he was set up by the anti-doping body, which did not contact him by phone.

In a statement to CNN, the AIU said it would not comment on the specifics of an ongoing case but confirmed its officers are instructed not to phone ahead.

"Any advanced notice of testing, in the form of a phone call or otherwise, provides an opportunity for athletes to engage in tampering or evasion or other improper conduct which can limit the efficacy of testing," the statement read.

To be talking about athletes failing drug tests yet again is both "disappointing" and "frustrating" for Taylor.

"The significance of being a professional athlete and your professional responsibilities," he said. "I'm not trying to belittle (Christian) but the reality is, as a professional athlete, you have to do certain things.

"It's very difficult to see athletes year after year, month after month, have whereabout filing issues. You can call it laziness but it's irresponsible. As a world record holder, you know that eyes will be on you.

"You're no longer the person down the street. You need to step into your job. You need to step into your role. If I was sitting in front of him, I'd tell him the same thing. 'Dude, grow up and accept whatever you have to deal with now.'"

Coleman said he had been Christmas shopping "five minutes away" but had no idea a tester had visited his address, for one of the tests.

He also claims the AIU tester wrote an incorrect address on his unsuccessful attempt form, questioning whether the tester even came to the location.

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"It doesn't matter if you're doing a charity run. There's no excuse valid for this," a frustrated Taylor outlined. "After one, you should've woken up. After two, it should never happen. You got three strikers.

"So when is that light bulb going to go off? So I'm frustrated because I believe he's got great potential."

Coleman's representatives did not respond to CNN when offered the right of reply.

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