Who Is Eric Cottier, Independent Prosecutor Picked by WADA to Review Chinese Doping Scandal?

On Thursday, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) appointed Eric Cottier as an independent prosecutor to review the case of 23 Chinese swimmers who tested positive for trimetazidine (TMZ) in January of 2021. He will have access to all of WADA’s documents and is expected to share his conclusion within two months.

Cottier served as the attorney general for the Swiss canton of Vaud from 2005-22. WADA’s headquarters are located in Canada, but the organization is a Swiss foundation as it was founded in 1999 in Lausanne. WADA’s statutes are approved by Swiss authorities.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) criticized the move as WADA cherry picking an attorney from its own backyard. The scope of Cottier’s probe is limited to examining whether WADA was biased or unreasonable in its decision not to challenge China’s contamination theory.

“The world’s athletes deserve a truly independent review commission with a wide scope of review that is constituted with an independent athlete representative and impartial respected jurists with anti-doping experience appointed by government consensus,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said.

Let’s dig a bit deeper into Cottier’s history of conducting investigations.

Cottier’s career as Vaud’s attorney general was not without controversy. In 2018, he led an inquiry into trips to Russia by two of the region’s most famous politicians, state councilor Pascal Boulis and councilor of states Geraldine Savary. Pictures showed them at a celebration in Moscow and in front of a helicopter. Cottier said he couldn’t find enough evidence to support criminal charges, claiming Boulis and Savary accommodations were not luxurious and had nothing to do with “holiday resorts in palaces.”

Also in 2018, Cottier dismissed charges against Jacques Pitteloud, the former Swiss ambassador to Kenya. Cottier didn’t dispute the fact that Pitteloud threatened two Kenyan businessmen, but he deemed his actions permissible.

On multiple occasions, Cottier led unsuccessful prosecutions of climate change protestors. First he demanded a sentence for trespassing because climate activists played tennis in a branch of Bank Credit Suisse in November 2018 to protest against the bank’s investments in the gas, coal, and oil industries. After a district judge acquitted those activists, Cottier personally attacked him as a “mummy in a sarcophagus” and warned judges against another misjudgment.

Another political mess unfolded a few years later when environmentalists occupied Mormont Hill in October of 2020 to prevent the expansion of a local quarry. Police cleared the tent camp in March of 2021 and arrested dozens of activists, but Cottier struggled to secure his desired penalties at trial in January of 2022. Two protestors were fully acquitted and five others received penalties that were much more lenient than he sought. Back-and-forth exchanges with Vaudois Socialist Party president Jessica Jaccoud kept the case in the headlines during Cottier’s final year as Vaud’s attorney general before retiring in 2022.

Cottier is currently a prosecutor at the federal level in Switzerland as well as a member of the Board of the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law. Before his time as Vaud’s attorney general, he worked at several courts in Switzerland from 1984-2005.

Both Australia and the U.K. have also called for independent reviews of the 2021 Chinese doping controversy along with the USADA. WADA argues it is being unfairly accused of bias for not challenging China’s explanation that swimmers were unwittingly exposed to TMZ through food contamination from their hotel kitchen.

“WADA’s integrity and reputation is under attack,” WADA president Witold Banka said. “We continue to reject the false accusations and we are pleased to be able to put these questions into the hands of an experienced, respected and independent prosecutor.”

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Tomek
2 months ago

Personally I would give WADA a benefit of doubt on their decision not to suspend chinese athletes but keeping the whole incidents from the public is unacceptable.

Atticus
2 months ago

i wonder if Banka still believes that criticisms of WADA are purely “politically motivated”

Alison England
2 months ago

Noe Ponti’s medal chances aren’t affected by any Chinese swimmers, are they?

Michael Lawrence
2 months ago

Here’s a thought…… Bring in Rich McLaren.

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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