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19 May 2024 17:04
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  •   Home > News > Sports > Swimming

    Chinese swimming doping case sparks spat between global and US anti-doping agencies

    Revelations of positive doping tests for nearly two dozen Chinese swimmers that went unpunished has sparked an intense flurry of accusations and legal threats between the World Anti-Doping Agency and the head of the US anti-doping organisation.

    Revelations of positive doping tests for nearly two dozen Chinese swimmers that went unpunished has sparked a flurry of accusations and legal threats between the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the head of the United States anti-doping organisation.

    WADA said on Saturday it was turning to legal counsel to address a statement released by Travis Tygart, the CEO of the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), who said WADA and anti-doping authorities in China swept positive tests "under the carpet by failing to fairly and evenly follow the global rules that apply to everyone else in the world."

    Swimming Australia released a brief statement on the allegations, saying it welcomed "the stringent testing our athletes face to ensure a level playing field".

    "As an organisation we will always advocate for fairness and integrity, and we believe that all athletes deserve the right to earn success by their own hard work, effort, and dedication," Swimming Australia CEO Rob Woodhouse said.

    "At this stage we are making our own inquiries with World Aquatics, until we know more we aren't in a position to comment further."

    The allegation by Mr Tygart was made after WADA acknowledged it had cleared 23 Chinese swimmers who had tested positive for a banned heart medication to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 after agreeing with Chinese authorities that the samples had been contaminated.

    WADA defended its process, and said it acted in good faith and according to due process when it decided not to challenge the Chinese explanation for the positives.

    It then said Mr Tygart's comments were politically motivated and that it "is astonished by the outrageous, completely false and defamatory remarks" he made.

    WADA pointed out that USADA has, several times over the years, accepted "similar conclusions of contamination involving a number of US athletes" and that Mr Tygart "should realise that it is not only American athletes who can fall victim to situations of no-fault contamination."

    Mr Tygart came back with another statement, noting the difference between USADA's handling of contamination cases and this one.

    The Chinese case involves a medication called trimetazidine (TMZ), which recently led to the suspension of Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva at the Winter Olympics in Beijing in 2022.

    TMZ is a well-known prescription medication for people with heart disease. It is known to help athletes improve stamina and decrease recovery times. Its use comes with the most stringent penalties under anti-doping rules.

    Mr Tygart said USADA's previous contamination cases have not involved TMZ.

    "And, most importantly, in all contamination cases that we have proven, we provisionally suspended the athlete, disqualified the results, found a violation, and issued an announcement as required by the rules," he said.

    The Chinese swimmers cases weren't publicly revealed until reports by The New York Times and Daily Telegraph surfaced Saturday.

    In explaining its handling of the case, WADA conceded there were difficulties in conducting investigations in China because of COVID-19-related lockdown restrictions that were in place there in early 2021 when the positive tests were uncovered.

    It said it consulted with lawyers who advised that appealing the case was not warranted.

    The disagreement is the latest in years of sparring between WADA and Mr Tygart, who has long felt WADA did not go tough enough on Russia after its government-sponsored doping scheme at the Sochi Olympics in 2014 was uncovered.

    There is a chance the case could wind up in American court under a US law enacted in 2020 that was widely criticised by WADA. Federal prosecutors can bring charges in doping cases that show a conspiracy to taint an international event involving US athletes.

    "All of those with dirty hands in burying positive tests and suppressing the voices of courageous whistleblowers must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the rules and law," Mr Tygart said.

    WADA shot back at Mr Tygart, saying it was considering legal action.

    "It should be noted that following Mr. Tygart's false allegations, WADA has no choice but to refer this matter to its legal counsel for further action," the WADA news release concluded, with the paragraph written in bold, black print.



    © 2024 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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