Olympic Swimmers React to Chinese Doping Scandal: ‘Ban Them All and Never Compete Again’

Olympians from around the world reacted to the stunning news Friday night that 23 Chinese swimmers were cleared by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) despite testing positive for a banned substance about seven months before the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

Chinese doping authorities claimed trimetazidine (TMZ) was ingested unwittingly, but they reportedly provided no explanation for how traces of the drug appeared in the kitchen of a hotel where the swimmers had stayed. Ultimately, however, WADA concluded that it could not disprove China’s version of events.

Three-time British Olympic champion Adam Peaty questioned why there was never any information released about the situation at the time.

“Who really benefits from the lack of transparency and secrecy?” Peaty asked on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “What happened to strict liability? Whether someone benefits or not, surely at this scale it prove it’s systematic? So disappointing from WADA.”

Peaty is gearing up for a 100-meter breaststroke battle at the Paris Olympic this summer with reigning world champion Qin Haiyang, who was among those named as having tested positive for TMZ in 2021.

Peaty’s British teammate, James Guy, also expressed his frustration on social media.

“Wow. Ban them all and never compete again,” Guy wrote on X. “Give Slam his gold medal now.”

“Slam” is a nickname for Duncan Scott, who won a silver medal in the 200 IM (1:55.28) behind China’s Wang Shun (1:55.00) in Tokyo. Wang was another star Chinese swimmer named as having tested positive in a joint investigation by the New York Times and German TV station ARD along with 200 butterfly gold medalist Zhang Yufei.

Australian breaststroker Zac Stubblety-Cook, who lost his 200 breast world record to Qin last year, took a more measured approach to the potential scandal.

“That’s up to WADA and that whole system,” Stubblety-Cook said. “I’m an athlete and I just have to trust the system.”

WADA defended its handling of the case, claiming it had no basis to challenge China’s explanation of environmental contamination. But the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) still isn’t satisfied with WADA’s explanation.

“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,” USADA CEO Travis 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.”

USA Swimming also 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 told 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. WADA later denied that China’s 800 free relay was being disqualified.

Allison Schmitt, who led off the U.S. women’s 800 free relay that took silver behind China, shared her thoughts on her Instagram story.

“It saddens me that the Olympic Games’ movement and the purity of competition is pushed aside for money and politics,” Schmitt wrote. “Not only as an Olympic medalist affected by this controversy, but also as an athlete and human being, I’m disappointed in the lack of fair play and integrity that WADA claims to uphold… I remember our team asking to be drug tested after this race. To ensure that we are all clean.”

Stanford head coach Greg Meehan, who coached the U.S. women at the Tokyo Olympics three years ago, said that everyone had concerns of systematic doping during the pandemic because of infrequent testing.

“Complete lack of transparency by WADA/Chinada and inconsistent handling of positive tests is appalling,” Meehan wrote on X. “Timing of these events coinciding with the fact that Beijing was about to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games is no coincidence. Most elite athletes will have one Olympic cycle in their prime, two if they are lucky…they deserve better.”

Swimming Australia CEO Rob Woodhouse said “at this stage we are making our own inquiries with World Aquatics.” Swimming Canada issued its own statement on Sunday, noting that it’s in the process of seeking further information from its national and international sport partners.

“Swimming Canada is committed to clean sport and the strict enforcement of anti-doping rules to maintain a level playing field,” said Canada, which barely missed the women’s 800 free relay podium with a 4th-place finish at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. “Doping can deprive clean athletes of hard-earned moments they deserve, such as standing on the podium and the life-changing opportunities that may follow.”

Meanwhile, French star Leon Marchand weighed in with an “uh-oh” emoji. The 400 IM world record holder could be going up against both Qin and Wang at his home Olympics this summer.

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14 days ago

Well if the amounts found in their system were large enough. It could prove cheating..

Except the amounts were low. And contamination is still a plausibility.

Given the low amounts, wada had no basis to punish them when they could be very much innocent. Yet it seems to some people’s that contamination cannot ever happen in China but only in America or Australia lol

It seems even the slightest doubt can make people cry out cheating. But it seems they can’t tolerate the uncertainties and the fact they may be wrong. But too proud to admit they might be. :/

Clean Water
27 days ago

If anyone knows how the communist country works, it is a joke to believe the excuse of contamination of hotel kitchen. Positive is the fact, why was it not disclosed?

Ranger Coach
28 days ago

Madisyn Cox (US) and Shayna Jack (Australia) were both found to have accidentally taken a banned substance. Cox was found to have taken it via a tainted vitamin or supplement that was legal to take. I think Jack was found to have either eaten something that was contaminated or taken a supplement that was tainted, I don’t remember the exact details. Cox was banned for six months. Jack was banned for two years. Both were found to have had no knowledge of ever taking the banned substance up until they tested positive.

Even if 23 Chinese athletes tested positive due to food contamination, based upon the results from Cox and Jack, they should have been banned for somewhere between 6… Read more »

Reply to  Ranger Coach
14 days ago

The major difference is the amounts in the American sample were high enough to be considered as using the drug deliberately.

Whereas the Chinese samples didn’t have a large enough amount. Hence making it easier to believe it’s just contamination.

Guimaraes Cayley
28 days ago

I fail to understand how a drug, whose presentation does not include manipulation as a production method, could wind up in a hot kitchen contaminating food. But I am no pharmacist.
I disagree with Mr. Zac Stubblety-Cook I think the system is in place to be trusted, but also be held to account, just like the athletes are held accountable for their health and medications and food.
P.S. It was not lost on me the irony that Germany Media produced a documentary.

Reply to  Guimaraes Cayley
14 days ago

I think Zac was pretty mature and understanding that scientists should judge the situation better than layman judges who knows nothing about pharmacology.

28 days ago

Well said tbh. Give Regan her gold medal too.

29 days ago

So much for accountability, credibility, integrity, ……..

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Last edited 29 days ago by Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
Slow Breastroker
29 days ago

It’s one thing to expose the positive tests and WADA lack of action. We must support this.

It’s another thing to call American swimmers and tell them prematurely they have been upgraded to gold medal.

Who made the call and why?

This whole thing is messed up.

Reply to  Slow Breastroker
29 days ago

It is implicit in his statement that Mr. Tygart does not accept the finding of environmental contamination in this case although he cannot say why. Yet, it is true that in the United States, WADA has also accepted USADA’s similar conclusions of contamination involving a number of U.S. athletes. Mr. Tygart should realize that it is not only American athletes who can fall victim to situations of no-fault contamination.

Just wondering if food contamination can be proven, a ban is still required or just the initiate term will be reduced? Did those US Athletes or someone else from other countries receive any bans?

Slow Breastroker
Reply to  Alan
29 days ago

Inferring from that statement, it’s similar occurrences, in that USADA cleared the athletes and WADA accepted USADA decision.

Awsi Dooger
29 days ago

Many of the swimmers are now quoting Tygart on Instagram, but are doing so in the short-lived Instagram stories instead of a full post.

That is unimpressive and insufficient

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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