Independent Prosecutor Rules WADA Showed No Bias In Handling of Chinese Doping Case

The independent prosecutor investigating the handling of the Chinese doping case in 2021 found that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) made an “indisputably reasonable” decision not to challenge the conclusion reached by China’s anti-doping authorities.

Eric Cottier, who was tabbed by WADA to review the case in April, released his findings on Tuesday, ruling that WADA showed no bias toward China in its handling of the case, though there were doubts from WADA’s scientist regarding China’s explanation on how the athletes were contaminated.

In early 2021, 23 Chinese swimmers tested positive for the banned substance trimetazidine (TMZ). The positive tests were not reported at the time, and the swimmers went on to continue competing without any sanctions, including individual Tokyo Olympic champions Wang Shun and Zhang Yufei, and multi-time world champion Qin Haiyang.

Eleven of the swimmers who tested positive are scheduled to compete at the Paris Olympics later this month.

“There is nothing in the file – which is complete – to suggest that WADA showed favoritism or deference, or in any way favored the 23 swimmers who tested positive for trimetazidine (TMZ) between 1 and 3 January 2021, when it proceeded to review CHINADA’s decision to close the proceedings against them without further action,” Cottier said.

Chinese anti-doping authorities (CHINADA) concluded that the athletes had been contaminated with the substance by way of the hotel kitchen where they were staying during a training camp.

Cottier said that WADA made a “reasonable” decision not to challenge CHINADA’s ruling.

“All the elements taken into consideration by WADA, whether they come from the file produced by CHINADA with its decision or from the investigation procedures that it carried out, show the decision not to appeal to be reasonable, both from the point of view of the facts and the applicable rules,” he said.

In an annex published alongside WADA’s press release, Cottier said WADA chief scientist Olivier Rabin was unable to exclude the contamination scenario, facing him with “no other solutions than to accept it, even if he continued to have doubts about the reality of contamination as described by the Chinese authorities.” This is despite Rabin finding it “almost impossible to design a realistic scenario” in determining how the hotel kitchen could’ve been contaminated with TMZ.

In the press release, Rabin said any doubts he had weren’t enough to give WADA a chance at winning an appeal over the Chinese authorities.

“From a scientific point of view, it is important to challenge all aspects of the file to make sure that the explanation of origin of the prohibited substance is a credible one,” Rabin said.

“In this case, despite our skepticism, a thorough review of all the verifiable facts of the case revealed no evidence to challenge the contamination scenario. Rather, all the available evidence pointed towards no-fault contamination versus intentional ingestion. Ultimately, in his report today, the Independent Prosecutor has confirmed that our conclusions were reasonable, based on the evidence.”

WADA President Witold Bańka said Cottier’s review confirmed “there was no impropriety connected to WADA’s handling of the case.”

“As the report captures, WADA reviewed this case with a healthy skepticism as it does in all such cases. It was very important that we set the record straight in this regard; and, in particular regarding these two fundamental questions in advance of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Banka said.

Banka added that WADA will now consider taking legal action against “those that have made untrue and potentially defamatory allegations.”

“These allegations have been extremely damaging to WADA’s reputation and to the confidence and trust that athletes and other stakeholders have in the Agency and in the global anti-doping system,” he said. “Instead of WADA being afforded the opportunity for substantive discussions about procedures based on rules of law and legal provisions, the Agency has been subjected to manipulation and attempts to create the impression that normal cooperation with Chinese stakeholders as the global regulator is somehow proof of bias towards China.”

United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) CEO Travis Tygart has gone back and forth publically with Banka over WADA’s handling of the case, and that continued on Tuesday as Tygart issued a statement casting more doubt on Cottier’s review.

“The WADA report issued by Mr. Cottier today provides athletes and the world with some additional information, but unfortunately, still leaves most of the critical questions unanswered when it comes to WADA allowing China to sweep 23 positive tests for a potent performance-enhancing drug under the carpet,” Tygart said.

“This is unsurprising since WADA itself handpicked the investigator and set the extremely limited scope of the investigation, preventing a meaningful review. Given its cozy role in the creation of the investigation, the world also has to wonder if WADA was able to see and even sanitize the report before its release.”

Tygart outlines how “we still don’t know” how the kitchen was contaminated, what the scientific basis was to determine this was a contamination case, why WADA didn’t open an investigation at the time, why it let China get away with breaking the rules without consequence, and asked, “Were all phone calls and conversations documented such that one can know what role WADA’s vice president, the IOC, and China’s extra funding play in WADA’s decision not to open an investigation or find any consequence on China for failing to follow the mandatory rules?“.

Tygart goes on to thank Cottier for “being able to provide some clarity in some critical places,” and calls on WADA to release the full findings from CHINADA, to submit a compliance audit and to undergo a more thorough investigation.

“From the beginning, our goal has been uncovering the truth and the facts of this situation on behalf of clean athletes,” Tygart said. “Until WADA leadership shares that goal and stops spewing vitriol at any voice of dissent, there will be no trust in the global anti-doping system.

“In fact, today’s WADA rules by fear and intimidation, as their statements make abundantly clear. It’s time for a new strategy given that WADA’s credibility is crumbling before the world’s eyes and athletes deserve openness, transparency, and truth—not more deflection and bullying.”

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4 days ago

Looks like I am the only voice that ” somewhat” agrees with WADAs let me explain. How do all 23 athletes test positive at the same time? Why would the Chinese take the risk? TMZ is so easy to test for! I do not believe the athletes knew what they had ingested. I also do not believe the kitchen scenario. That sounds improbable. And because there is no evidence to suggest that every single one of those athletes knowingly ingested a banned substance , WADA had no choice. We can all make assumptions at this point, and call the Swiss attorney biased, but within the legal framework during Covid, WADA did what they could.. let the bashing begin

Viking Steve
7 days ago

‘independent’ …. giggles,,,,,

8 days ago

I’m sure this was a thorough “independent” investigation. Sarcasm.

8 days ago

Surprise Surprise! No one expected anything different. Feel sorry for the Chinese swimmers though. If they win,it’s probably due to PED, if they lose it’s because they aren’t juiced. It’s a no win situation for them

Reply to  Swimdad
8 days ago

The Chinese leaders like Zhou Jihong need to be held to account for their cheating. They run the show with or without the athletes knowing what is going on.

Reply to  TimOB
8 days ago

Chinese leaders being held accountable? That will NEVER happen, not till we get a new govt.

Awsi Dooger
8 days ago

We’ve had Olympic betting lines quoted here recently. Can you imagine what the price on this would have been? Let me state it another way. Is there one person on the planet who would have wagered that WADA’s instantly hand picked investigator would rule that WADA acted improperly and with bias?

The biggest problem WADA had was deciding how long they had to twiddle around before telling stringed Eric Cottier to release the report. Obviously it had to be before Paris. But not too close to the point it could have been drowned out by other news like Seine sludge

8 days ago

Eric Cottier who was appointed by WADA……Stopped reading right there.

Reply to  Bob
8 days ago

An absolute set-up!

8 days ago

Kinda of similar to how they did an “independent” investigation and found no evidence of the coronavirus coming from china. Who gets more “donations” from the Chinese, WADA or WHO?

Reply to  Coach
8 days ago

There were already coronavirus found prior to November of 2019 outside of China. The outbreak did initially start in China. Did you not research?

8 days ago

The less tension there is between the US and China the better, atp anything can become a flashpoint (which obv. will not be good for both countries)

Good thing this doping scandal hasn’t become super mainstream yet, hopefully everything can be resolved in the swimming ecosystem..

Jozsef Nagy Acting School
Reply to  Stingy
8 days ago

It’s not just the US, or more specifically the US athletes who are pissed about this. Any athlete who is clean and competing against those who are perceived to be cheating (Chinese or not) has the right to call BS.

The explanation that’s been given here doesn’t pass the sniff test. And this independent review doesn’t do much to improve the fragrance.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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