WADA Appoints Independent Prosecutor to Review Handling of China Doping

WADA Appoints Independent Prosecutor to Review Handling of China Doping

The World Anti-Doping Agency on Thursday announced it had invited independent prosecutor Eric Cottier to review its handling of doping positives in early 2021 from China.

The decision was taken by a unanimous vote of WADA’s executive committee in a virtual meeting Thursday. The ExCo board had 16 members, including athletes and sports governments, representing interest groups from around the world.

“WADA’s integrity and reputation is under attack,” WADA President Witold Bańka said in a press release. “In the past few days, WADA has been unfairly accused of bias in favor of China by not appealing the CHINADA case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. 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. I thank the members of WADA’s Executive Committee for meeting at such short notice and for their support in this matter.”

Cottier’s work will begin immediately and is expected to take two months, which would position it to be released just as the world is ramping up for the Paris Olympics.

Cottier has 39 years of legal experience. He served as the attorney general of Switzerland’s Canton de Vaud from 2005 to his retirement in 2022. He’s a member of the Board of the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law and the Rome-based International Institute for the Unification of Private Law.

Cottier will be “granted full and unfettered access” to WADA’s files on the case. WADA set out two main questions or him to answer, quoted in full from the release:

  1. Is there any indication of bias towards China, undue interference or other impropriety in WADA’s assessment of the decision by CHINADA not to bring forward anti-doping rule violations against the 23 Chinese swimmers?
  2. Based on a review of the case file related to the decision by CHINADA not to bring forward anti-doping rule violations against the 23 Chinese swimmers, as well as any other elements that WADA had at its disposal, was the decision by WADA not to challenge on appeal the contamination scenario put forward by CHINADA a reasonable one?

“WADA is grateful to Mr. Cottier who has accepted to take on this mandate,” director general Olivier Niggli said. While not one shred of evidence has been presented to support any of the allegations made against WADA, we wish to deal with the matter as quickly and as comprehensively as possible so that the matter is appropriately handled in advance of the upcoming Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

It was revealed last week that 23 athletes tested positive 28 times over several days at a meet in China in early 2021. China’s anti-doping agency, CHINADA, investigated and determined the cause was environmental contamination of a hotel kitchen by the drug trimetazidine, leading to the positives. WADA reviewed the case and found no reason to dispute or legally challenge CHINADA’s findings.

WADA is also sending a compliance audit team to China to assess the state of its anti-doping program. That team will include independent auditors from outside of WADA.

“I have spoken to members of the Athlete Council on this matter to keep them updated, along with WADA senior leadership to provide facts and answer the questions athletes are asking,” said Ryan Pini, a four-time Olympic swimmer from Papua New Guinea who chairs WADA’s Athlete Council and sits on the Executive Council. “There is broad support for WADA’s position on this, but one major issue that has been raised is around the serious breach of data that led to athletes’ personal information being leaked in the media. It is a matter of great concern for us that these athletes, who given the facts of this case, are entirely innocent and, in fact, victims of contamination without any fault or negligence on their side, are now being accused of wrongdoing with their names and sensitive details about them being published. I have asked WADA to conduct a full inquiry into what led to this information being leaked to the media and to take all necessary steps to sanction those responsible for exposing these athletes to unfair criticism and to ensure athletes rights are protected.”

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