Run it Back: Recapping Russian and Chinese Doping Scandals

The subject of anti-doping within worldwide sport has riddled the headlines throughout history, but has been an especially persistent newsmaker in swimming over the past year. Recurring issues originating from nations of Russia and China, specifically, have kept the anti-doping conversation in a never-ending cycle that has lasting impact across the swimming globe.

In November of last year, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) released its special commission’s report on doping in sport, which revealed a systematic and pervasive doping culture in Russian sports that supposedly reaches up to high levels of the government.

Among findings within the report, WADA alleged that there had been significant government interference with the WADA-accredited Moscow anti-doping lab, the same lab that tested all samples from the 2015 FINA World Championships.

As a result, the board of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) deemed the National Anti-Doping Organizations (NADOs) of Russia as ‘non-compliant and the RUSADA Moscow Laboratory was suspended. WADA has the power to immediately suspend a laboratory’s accreditation when they have a justified reason to believe it is necessary to protect the interest of the Anti-Doping Community.

The next month, in December, RUSADA Director-General Ramil Khabriev stepped down as head of the RUSADA, while a WADA commission arrived in Moscow to begin its work of ensuring that anti-doping functions continue while RUSADA serves its suspension.

Although the commission’s report originally stemmed from a non-swimming sport, last month the English news source The Times published an article accusing the alleged systematic doping within Russian track and field of having also infiltrated the sport of swimming.

According to The Times, Russia has undertaken systematic doping in swimming for years, spotlighted by Russian 100m breaststroke World Champion Yulia Efimova having tested positively for meldonium just recently, the 2nd positive test of a banned substance in her career. The Russian Swimming Federation has rejected the media’s allegations that it was covering up positive tests for doping among its athletes.

Within a day, FINA issued official statement on the allegation of systematic doping within Russian swimming. The organization said it had called on The Times to share any information that they may have which ‘might assist them in their primary objective of protecting clean athletes in swimming.’ FINA continued that ‘any new allegations of doping in our sport, which are substantiated by evidences and which have not already been addressed, well be investigated as a matter of utmost urgency.’

As news of the allegations spread, upper echelons of the swimming community began speaking out. Australian Head Coach Jacco Verhaeren stated he was not exactly surprised at the allegations extending to Russian swimming. “After the athletics (scandal) it should come as little surprise but it’s still shocking,’’ Verhaeren told The Australian. “This is system-wide across many sports and it’s very, very unfortunate.’’

Since the revelation on Efimova, it was announced that Russian swimmer Yana Martynova tested positively for meldonium back on July 18, 2015, which has now resulted in a 4-year ban. Russian water polo player Alexey Bugaychuk also reportedly tested positive for meldonium, bringing the total number of known cases of Russians having tested positive for the substance to 23 since January 1, 2016.

But, Russia is not alone in snagging storylines in the anti-doping arena. As of last month, the China Anti-Doping Agency (CHINADA) says that there have been 6 recent positive tests for banned substances by Chinese swimmers. Three positive tests were for clenbuterol dating back to late August/early September, while there were 3 positive tests in January of this year.

In another article produced from supposed whistleblowers’ statements, The Times claims that the aforementioned Chinese results were ‘concealed and covered-up’, an accusation which CHINADA denies. The sources accuse swimming coach Zhou Ming of working with swimmers in Tianjin, even though Ming was banned for life in 1998 for his involvement in a prior doping scheme.

As confirmed via a statement by the Chinese Swimming Federation, Zhao Ying, Wang Lizhou, and An Jiabao all tested positive for clenbuterol in 2015, while the names of 3 other swimmers who had tested positive for Hydrochlorothiazide in January have remained private.

An Jiabao and Wang Lizhou were issued ‘warning penalties’, while warnings and monetary fines were also doled out to the swimmers’ respective teams.

Yet, life rolls on amidst the controversy. Just today, April 4th, Wang broke his own Chinese National Record and World Junior Record in the 100 breaststroke.

Related posts for more details on each milestone:


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8 years ago

In 2015 Yana Martynova was tested positively for ostarine, meldonium was legal back then.

8 years ago

Sharron Davies should have been given her gold medal too.

Victor P
8 years ago

I’m more convinced than ever (as if that were possible) that Ye Shiwen was doped already as a 16 yo (and probably had been for years). She recently swam nationals 22 seconds slower than her WR in London. That’s 5.5 seconds per 100 meter slower. But I’m sure people will still defend the 16 yo girl who swam the final 100 as fast as Lochte. Oy veh!

Behold the lax attitude China has, essentially giving a simple slap on the wrist to an athlete who used clenbuterol!

When will WE learn?

8 years ago

This is outrageous!

About Retta Race

Retta Race

Former Masters swimmer and coach Loretta (Retta) thrives on a non-stop but productive schedule. Nowadays, that includes having just earned her MBA while working full-time in IT while owning French 75 Boutique while also providing swimming insight for BBC.

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