WADA Points to Contamination Case in U.S. as Precedent for Clearing Chinese Swimmers in 2021

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) took nearly two hours on Monday to address allegations it mishandled a Chinese doping controversy in 2021, with general counsel Ross Wenzel pointing to a similar case on American soil back in 2014 as precedent.

WADA officials claimed they had no evidence to disprove Chinese authorities’ report that 23 elite swimmers’ positive tests for trimetazidine (TMZ) were caused by contamination in their hotel kitchen about seven months before the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. They cited strict COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in China as the reason why an on-the-ground investigation was impossible at the time. Wenzel estimated WADA’s chances of winning an appeal in front of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) were “close to zero.”

U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) CEO Travis Tygart is among those criticizing WADA for keeping the case hidden leading up to the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, going so far as to call it “a potential cover-up.” Wenzel did not provide an update on whether WADA would seek legal action against Tygart and USADA for their statements, but he did seem to suggest that their response is hypocritical based on the past.

Wenzel noted “a case involving more than 10 athletes in the U.S. in 2014, but there are many other examples where there has been group contamination related to food or environment, where these cases have been closed without public disclosure because it has been accepted that these athletes were at no fault… This is not without precedent.”

On Tuesday morning, Tygart claimed the 2014 case in question did not involve American athletes.

“WADA’s statements at the press conference about 10 cases on U.S. soil for which there was no violation and no public disclosure, is concerning,” Tygart said. “These 10 cases were not USADA’s, and we had no involvement with them, if they in fact happened in the U.S. This is a disturbing claim, as these cases must be International Federation cases with which USADA has no involvement. But it suggests WADA’s decision to allow China to sweep the 23 cases under the rug without consequence is apparently just the tip of the iceberg. So, how many more cases have been treated the same in violation of the rules?”

Wenzel added that USADA appears to have flipped its stance on disclosing information about doping investigations where no fault was found.

“USADA, for instance, is one of the organizations that has been quite vocal that cases of no fault should not be subject to public disclosure,” Wenzel said. “It made that comment recently in connection with a track and field athlete. It has made that comment in the past as well in press releases and to WADA.”

WADA president Witold Banka doubled down that “WADA followed the whole due process and diligently investigated every line of inquiry on this matter. If we had to do it over again now, we would do exactly the same thing.”

“It is worth pointing out that at the same time our experts were reviewing this case in 2021,” Banka added, “we were also vigorously pursuing justice in the case of another swimmer from China, Sun Yang.”

China contributed nearly $2 million above its yearly requirements to WADA programs in the two years before the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, but WADA director general Olivier Niggli denied that had any influence on their handling of the case in quetion.

“All this was done in total transparency,”  Niggli said. “And frankly, the (question) has absolutely nothing to do with what we are discussing today. So, the optics is a question (I appreciate), but I have absolutely no problem with the relationship we have with China.”

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USADA hit back on Tuesday morning, calling for an independent investigation due to all the questions left unanswered by WADA’s press conference. USADA also advocated for an “overhaul” of WADA to ensure the same problem doesn’t repeat itself in the future.

“Unfortunately, none of the outstanding questions about the failure of the Chinese Anti-Doping Agency or the World Anti-Doping Agency to uniformly enforce the anti-doping rules were satisfactorily answered for clean athletes and the public in WADA’s press conference yesterday,” USADA said in a statement.

“The selective and self-serving application of the rules we heard about yesterday destroys public trust in the authenticity and value of the Olympic and Paralympic Movement. Learning that different rules can be applied to different countries sours the commitment of those who are vital to its ongoing viability, including the world’s best athletes, fans, sponsors, and the next generation of athletes.

“As a result of the global anti-doping system’s obvious failure, we urgently call on governments and sport leaders to step up and immediately undertake action to ensure that real independence, oversight, and accountability are created in the global anti-doping system so that the world can have trust and confidence in the system and those who lead it.

“Given we are on the eve of the 2024 Summer Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games, athletes and the public desperately need and deserve confidence in the global anti-doping system headed into these Games. An immediate first step to repairing the damage of this cover-up is for governments to appoint an Independent Prosecutor to review the entire case file of the 23 positive tests and ensure that justice is delivered in these cases.

“The statute of limitations has not run out in these cases and the pathway for application of the rules and due process may still exist. The effort to achieve whatever justice possible at this time must happen before the 2024 Paris Games, as it is unfair for all athletes competing in these Games to possibly compete against those who tested positive and whose results were kept secret until now.

“WADA’s willingness to blindfold and handcuff itself as we learned yesterday, and to maintain that it would do the same thing all over again, is yet another stab in the back to clean athletes. How can a global regulator possibly be satisfied when it allows 23 positive tests to be swept under the carpet, and no athlete or organization is held accountable?

“Given this, we also call on the Governments at the WADA Executive and Foundation Board to launch a full review of how it came to be that 23 Chinese positive tests were covered up, and WADA allowed it to happen without any consequence, contrary to its own rules. All athletes, sponsors, and fans of the Olympic and Paralympic Movement deserve a real global guard dog that has the teeth and the determination to apply the rules uniformly and fairly.

“Additionally, following this review, we call on governments and the sport movement to overhaul WADA to ensure a cover-up of positive samples on the eve of the Olympic Games cannot occur ever again, and to once and for all remove the fox from guarding the hen house by making WADA truly independent.

“Thousands of athletes around the world have dedicated themselves to playing by WADA’s rules every day, and their careers depend on their strict compliance with the rules. The organizations trusted to protect their rights should be held to the same level of accountability.”

Check out WADA’s full press conference below:

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Laugh
1 month ago

This is so funny bc a bunch of Chinese keep upvoting Tencor😂

Boy
1 month ago

My dad’s friend used to swim for Guangdong Province ( a swim team in China), there were so many dopers.

Alan
Reply to  Boy
1 month ago

Why you bother to use “Your dad’s friend”, but not directly “You”? At least it may make your allegation more reliable.

If you really want to be a whistleblower, please provide the basic when, where, what and how. Without those info, even your favorite NYT or ARD reporters will throw them to trash without any hesitations. Remember, Paparazzi is not an easy job.

June
Reply to  Boy
1 month ago

in China some coaches would warn their athletes not to take nutrition supplement provided by the national/ provincial team. 

David S
1 month ago

What WADA is saying is that if China is guilty then the US is guilty.

Sub13
1 month ago

I think the biggest takeaway from this is that more transparency is needed. Sure, it would suck to get a false positive but it’s not right that some swimmers get positives made public immediately while others get to keep it secret until (if?) there are consequences.

Also, TUEs need to be made public. Using a TUE is “within the rules” but it’s still an advantage. If someone legit does have a heart problem and takes TMZ, that doesn’t just put them back to standard. They still get the performance benefit that a d*per would get. The public should know who is getting a performance boost, even if it is “medically necessary”. I guarantee you the majority of top swimmers have… Read more »

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Sub13
1 month ago

Making TUEs public is basically making medical records public. I don’t think that’s likely to happen.

Sure, you might suspect athletes are abusing TUEs. But “your honor, I simply don’t believe them and their doctors” doesn’t make for a compelling case.

Edit – And do we even know what the status of the B samples in this case were? WADA’s tried to claim some positive/some negative, not sure exactly what that refers to.

Last edited 1 month ago by Steve Nolan
Sub13
Reply to  Steve Nolan
1 month ago

Doesn’t have to disclose specific details of the patient, just disclose the TUE. Sure, in a lot of cases it would be obvious what it’s for, but who cares.

People with TUEs are swimming with an illegal advantage over other swimmers that is allowed through a loophole.

I’m honestly half of the mind that if you need a TUE you just can’t compete. Some people aren’t born to be Olympians, and if you can’t make the cut without a banned substance then you’re one of them.

KeithM
Reply to  Sub13
1 month ago

Well it is an advantage but it’s not illegal. As you acknowledged above in derisory quotes it’s within the rules. But I do agree with you. I would support a ban on TUEs. It would mean some athletes with legit conditions & injury situations wouldn’t be able to compete. But on balance it would be better for the sport.

Troyy
Reply to  KeithM
1 month ago

I don’t see TUEs being banned because athletes have a right to health just like everyone else and it could also be seen as disability discrimination.

JoeB
Reply to  Sub13
1 month ago

The TUE issue could be settled with a single-page legal document. An athlete must sign a form that allows their use of TUEs to become public information before they can compete internationally. An athlete unwilling to follow this protocol is not eligible to compete outside its own country. By making it internationally, you are allowing each country to decide what it wants to disclose, what it wants to keep private. Competing against the rest of the world should be considered a privilege, not an automatic right because of a time, or place, achieved.

Sub13
Reply to  JoeB
1 month ago

Completely agree. Elite athletes have to make lots of concessions that normal people don’t. Make this one of them.

Can’t kick can’t pull
1 month ago

WADAs general counsel – Oxford educated and then spent 3 years at slaughter and may. To put this in swimming terms, like swimming at St Peter’s western as an age grouper, then as a pro swimming with Bohl, Cotterel, Frost, Mooney, Raleigh, Jacco (before he left the firm), Rollason and Bishop

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Can’t kick can’t pull
1 month ago

These analogies really cleared things up for me. Totally get it now.

Bob
1 month ago

So if a mistake was made 10 years ago and that is the precedent then any swimmer should be able to dope and claim contamination until at least 2031.Why not?, its 10 years from the incident in China so it should be good for everybody else.

Swimmun’ Folx
1 month ago

I watched the whole press conference. I was impressed with journalists’ questions in the second half.

Their questions were serious and probing. I’m American, and it’s been a good 3+ years since I’ve seen journalists go after a subject or leader in such a rigorous way. (Most of the American press are lapdogs to a favored set of clients.)

I was also impressed with Pat Forde’s questions at about the 1:11:00+ mark. I’m sure he was seething inside, but he came across as calm and collected.

This Guy
Reply to  Swimmun’ Folx
1 month ago

Pat Forde is one of the best sports journalists and is also a Massive swimming fan. I believe his daughters were swimmers. Just to put some perspective on why his questions were very good and pointed. It’s really great to have a journalist of his level sincerely interested in this story.

emoney117
Reply to  This Guy
1 month ago

I might be way wrong here but wasn’t one of his daughters on the prelims of the 800 free relay in Tokyo?

Patrick
Reply to  emoney117
1 month ago

She swam prelims, yes.

Sub13
Reply to  This Guy
1 month ago

Lol or maybe it’s because he has a vested interest in trying to upgrade his daughter’s medal?

KeithM
Reply to  Sub13
1 month ago

The questions were appropriate no matter who asked them.

Swimdad
1 month ago

WADA PRESIDENT …”WADA followed the whole due process and diligently investigated every line of inquiry on this matter. If we had to do it over again now, we would do exactly the same thing.”

WADA OFFICIALS…Due to strict COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in China, an on-the-ground investigation was impossible at the time.

So what exactly did they investigate? Interesting how they quickly invoke Sun Yangs name in this matter.
I’m starting to believe the poor guy took the fall for all of.China.

JT Thomas
Reply to  Swimdad
1 month ago

They didn’t investigate. They accepted a laughable story without even questioning it

Alan
Reply to  JT Thomas
1 month ago

I think your guys are still living in the Stone Age. Have you heard something called Zoom Meeting, MS Team, Skype, fedex/ UPS shipping or fax? Maybe it is too advanced to you. But you may hear the name called ATT telephone which people can talk from a far away distance???

What a significant difference between an on site investigation and remote investigation for cases like this one? All the findings and evidences can be viewed, analyzed and challenged remotely. No on site investigation should not be the reason you use to challenge their work, especially during Covid time.

Trulycurious
Reply to  Alan
1 month ago

Sus. Chinese plant?

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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