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US-anti doping body calls for Wada overhaul amid Chinese swimming scandal

US-anti doping body calls for Wada overhaul amid Chinese swimming scandal
China's team – Yang Junxuan, Zhang Yufei, Li Bingjie and Tang Muhan – after winning a surprise gold medal with a world record in the women's 4x200m freestyle relay at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. 29 July 2021. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Yonhap)

The US Anti-Doping Agency is calling for a major revamp at the World Anti-Doping Agency after a Chinese doping debacle, demanding an independent prosecutor reviews the case of 23 Chinese swimmers who tested positive before the Tokyo Olympics began in 2021

The US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) said that the World Anti-Doping Agency must be overhauled to restore confidence in the global body ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics following its handling of a Chinese doping case.

Usada wants an independent prosecutor to review the case of 23 Chinese swimmers who tested positive before the Tokyo Olympics began in 2021.

They were not punished as Wada accepted Chinese authorities’ explanation that their samples had been contaminated, with the body reiterating on Tuesday that it had no evidence to challenge the contamination scenario.

“Athletes and the public desperately need and deserve confidence in the global anti-doping system headed into the (Paris) Games,” Usada said in a news release.

It called 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 Chinese swimmers tested positive for trimetazidine months before the Covid-delayed Tokyo Olympics began in the Japanese capital in July 2021.

Wada was notified in June 2021 of the Chinese anti-doping organisation’s decision to accept that the swimmers were exposed to the substance through contamination from spice containers in the kitchen of a hotel where they were staying.

Read more in Daily Maverick: US Anti-Doping Agency wants probe into Chinese swimming scandal, welcomes Wada lawsuit threat

The case file was made available to the Wada science department, which determined the contamination scenario was not only plausible but that there was no concrete element to call it into question.

The head of Usada, Travis Tygart, said on Monday the swimmers should have been provisionally suspended, and his organisation kept up the pressure on Wada on Tuesday.

“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,” Usada said.

Doping, Wada

Usada chief Travis Tygart. (Photo: Buda Mendes/Getty Images For Laureus)

“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.”

But Wada, whose senior officials defended the handling of the case during a two-hour media availability on Monday, said in response it had no evidence to challenge the scenario that led to the Chinese anti-doping authority (Chinada) closing the cases in June 2021.

“Wada was advised by external counsel that it would lose any appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport based on such a challenge,” Wada said in a statement to Reuters.

“This is a position that was also reached separately by the international governing body for swimming, World Aquatics, which independently studied the evidence and reached the same conclusion.

“So far, despite all the attention created around this story, nobody has been able to produce any evidence that would allow a successful prosecution of these cases.”

Usada also wants the governments at the Wada Executive and Foundation Board to launch a full review into how the swimmers escaped punishment.

“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,” said Usada.

“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.” Reuters/DM

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