China Responds to Allegations of Widespread 2021 Doping: ‘Fake News’

China’s foreign ministry spokesman, Wang Wenbin, called recent allegations of widespread doping among Chinese swimmers “fake news” on Monday.

“The relevant reports are fake news and not factual,” Wang said at a press conference in Beijing. “I believe you will also have noted that the World Anti-Doping Agency has put out a very clear response.

“The Chinese swimmers involved were neither at fault nor guilty of negligence, and their behavior did not constitute a doping violation. After an investigation, WADA affirmed the findings of the China anti-doping center.”

News spread over the weekend that 23 Chinese swimmers tested positive for trimetazidine (TMZ) about seven months before the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. Chinese anti-doping authorities conducted their own investigation, claiming the the banned substance was ingested unwittingly without providing an explanation for how traces of the drug appeared in the swimmers’ hotel kitchen. Ultimately, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) decided it could not disprove China’s version of events.

“It was not possible for WADA scientists or investigators to conduct their enquiries on the ground in China given the extreme restrictions in place to due a COVID-related lockdown,” WADA said in a statement.

Meanwhile, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) CEO Travis Tygart has been vocal that WADA “swept these positives under the carpet,” calling the situation a “potential cover-up.” WADA hit back, noting it “reserves its right to take legal action as appropriate.” USADA didn’t back down, putting out another statement.

“When you blow away their rhetoric, the facts remain as have been reported: WADA failed to provisionally suspend the athletes, disqualify results, and publicly disclose the positives,” Tygart said. “These are egregious failures, even if you buy their story that this was contamination and a potent drug ‘magically appeared’ in a kitchen and led to 23 positive tests of elite Chinese swimmers.”

Chinese swimmers named as having tested positive for TMZ in January of 2021 include Tokyo Olympic gold medalists Zhang Yufei and Wang Shun as well as 200 breast world record holder Qin Haiyang.

“Ban them all and never compete again,” British Olympic champion James Guy wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “Give Slam (Duncan Scott, silver medalist in 200 IM behind Wang) his gold medal now.”

USA Swimming chimed in on Saturday, saying that it is “extremely disappointed to hear the allegations reported, and looks forward to swift action and resolution.” On Friday, American swimmers were reportedly told by a USADA official that the Chinese women’s 800 free relay was facing the stripping of their gold medals due to a doping violation by at least one member of the relay. However, WADA later denied that China’s 800 free relay was being disqualified.

Chinese state-owned tabloid Global Times called the doping allegations “slanderous accusations” on Monday, indicating a Western attempt at thwarting China’s sporting prowess.

“Relevant countries are currently manipulating the issue of doping and smearing China’s swimming program, clearly doing so intentionally,” the Global Times wrote.

Australian-born coach Denis Cotterell defended China in an interview over the weekend with The Sydney Morning Herald. He has been working with the Chinese Swimming Association for the last two years and formerly coached Sun Yang, who was banned for a positive TMZ test back in 2014.

“I am happy to say I’m absolutely in support of my swimmers and dispute the suggestion of anything orchestrated,” Cotterell said. “I see what they go through. I see the measures. I can tell you the stories. I know the facts and I am comfortable.”

German media ARD, which first broke the story in conjunction with the New York Times, released a documentary on Sunday exploring their lengthy investigation. It prompted WADA to release another statement on the matter.

“The agency still stands by the results of its scientific investigation and legal decision concerning the case,” WADA said.

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1 month ago

Even talking about this in China or Hong Kong is likely a violation of national security law. Let’s not pretend that we’ve got a fair and open discussion on both sides of this.

1 month ago

Intentionally using performance enhancing drugs or victims of a complex conspiracy? Hmmm….

1 month ago

If you have the ability, usada can Sue wada to cas, so that wada will publish the names, and the two sides will be destroyed

1 month ago

the WADA press conference today is very worth watching

Just Keep Swimming
1 month ago

So according to WADA there was a similar incident in 2014 with 10 US athletes and USADA strangely was more than happy to let that incident not be report.

From memory, Conor Dwyer’s incident was only made public after he was found guilty, almost a year after the positive test. Had he been cleared are we sure USADA would have made it public?

The US grandstanding really only works if their hands are completely clean and they clearly aren’t.

Reply to  Just Keep Swimming
1 month ago

No. Why not condemn them both? Who is “grandstanding”? What does that even mean?

Just Keep Swimming
Reply to  Dave
1 month ago

Grandstanding: the action of behaving in a showy or ostentatious manner in an attempt to attract favourable attention from spectators or the media.

USADA is making all of these explosive claims and pushing their moral outrage harder than a Republican at an abortion clinic.

Reply to  Just Keep Swimming
1 month ago

I don’t understand how Conor Dwyer incident comes into this at all. In November 2018 he was tested. In December 2018 he was given a provisional suspension. He wasn’t cleared. The issue here is that there were positive results, it took two months for the results to make their way to WADA there was no provisional suspension and there was no transparency in the decision. I don’t think you should conflate the issue of fault/no fault with the issue of a lack of transparency. As of now WADA has introduced a bogey man (10 athletes on U.S. soil, was never mentioned 10 U.S. athletes), on occurrence in 2014 involving USADA without any details. Let’s hear the details.

1 month ago

Logically thinking with the “presumption” that CHINADA’s explanation is true and accurate, wouldn’t this explanation be considered “accidental poisoning” with liable consequences of 23 of the country’s premier athletes (theoretically it could equally have had a positive result or negative result had the poisoning been a different substance) and as such been serious breaking news with major ramifications for the hotel (accommodation venue) including the immediate closure of facility for major decontamination and clean 🤷? Certainly would be the case in almost any other country throughout the world. This is a MAJOR breach of health regulations at the very least. The fact that this venue is still presumably open for business, how can anyone be assured of it’s cleanliness even… Read more »

Hin Qaiyang
1 month ago

Honestly im just as concerned if the story presented by CHINADA is true. It means random chinese citizens are injesting tmz unknowingly.

1 month ago

had to read that headline in a Trump voice….

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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