Three Chinese Swimmers Reportedly Tested Positive Before 2021 Incident, Also Went Unpunished

For three of the 23 Chinese swimmers who tested positive for a banned substance in 2021 before the Tokyo Olympics, it wasn’t their first time.

According to the New York Times, three Chinese swimmers tested positive for another banned substance, clenbuterol, in 2016 and 2017. Two of them became Olympic champions in Tokyo despite multiple positive tests, both of which were cleared because of contamination explanations.

Three Olympic gold medalists and a current world record holder were among the list of 23 Chinese swimmers who tested positive for trimetazidine (TMZ) in January of 2021, about seven months before the Summer Games: Zhang Yufei, Wang Shun, Yang Junxuan, and Qin Haiyang. They were cleared after Chinese authorities claimed they unwittingly ingested the banned substance due to contamination in a hotel kitchen, despite the source of the TMZ never being identified.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) released a statement on Friday claiming the three Chinese swimmers in 2016 and 2017 — Wang, Yang, and Qin — had levels of clenbuterol between “six and 50 times lower” than the minimum reporting level. In both cases, no provisional suspensions were issued and no disciplinary action was ultimately taken. Wang went on to win Olympic gold in the men’s 200 IM, Yang helped China triumph in the women’s 4×200 free relay, and Qin currently owns the world record in the 200 breaststroke.

“The issue of contamination is real and well-known by the anti-doping community,” WADA director general Olivier Niggli said. “They were elite-level swimmers who were tested on a very frequent basis in a country where meat contamination with clenbuterol is widespread. It is hardly surprising that they could be among the hundreds of athletes who also tested positive for tiny amounts of the substance. In each of these cases, the source of the clenbuterol was confirmed to be food contamination.”

WADA appointed a Swiss prosecutor in April to review the case of the 23 Chinese swimmers, but that hasn’t stopped criticism from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and top American athletes. Last month, seven-time Olympic champion Katie Ledecky said her faith in the anti-doping system “is at an all-time low.”

When reports first surfaced of the 2021 incident involving 23 Chinese swimmers tested positive for TMZ, China denied any fault and called the allegations of doping “fake news.”

There was a famous doping contamination case involving four Brazilian swimmers who tested positive for the banned substance Furosemide back in 2011. Cesar Cielo and two others were cleared due to contamination, but one swimmer (Vinicius Waked) was suspended for one year because it was his second offense.

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1 month ago

Top American track and field star let off without sanction for trenbolone positive because of meat contamination but apparently only Chinese athletes benefit from such things. 🥴

1 month ago

If you been China in last five years you will know most news are fake

1 month ago

What a bunch of cheaters!!! Shame on you WADA

1 month ago

Clenbuterol is a bodybuilders drug. No wonder Qin is jacked.

Shame for Peatty, ZSC and everyone else.

1 month ago

Clearly some interesting wording going on. I’m willing to be proven wrong here but focusing on two main statements which initially seem contradictory:
“three Chinese swimmers tested positive for another banned substance, clenbuterol, in 2016 and 2017.”
“Wang, Yang, and Qin — had levels of clenbuterol between “six and 50 times lower” than the minimum reporting level.”

Now, a 1 minute google search turns out that the minimum reporting level for clenbuterol was only put in place in 2019, 2-3 years after the specific tests mentioned (, meaning that at the time of the positive tests any level should have considered as positive. This is probably what gave WADA the… Read more »

Reply to  Nelly
1 month ago

Exactly right, every year more and more substances are being banned. This is only to undermine China’s image at Paris as it seems that they are getting better (thanks to many American, Australian, British coaches), just so if China wins medals they can be excused by the general public

1 month ago

Some of the super suited WRs are suspicious even for super suited times. Supersuit + PEDs is an unbeatable combo.

cant kick cant pull
1 month ago

Pretty awful the lives lived by some animals in some countries – bred into massive farms, pumped full of insane drugs, cruelly slaughtered, if the meat cannot be sold the meat is then just chucked in the bin. Its a disgrace on the big corporate grocers.

cant kick cant pull
1 month ago

There is a statement published from WADA. Worth a read – avail from their webpage.

Last edited 1 month ago by cant kick cant pull

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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