WADA-Appointed Independent Prosecutor Exonerates WADA in Chinese Doping Case

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

WADA-Appointed Independent Prosecutor Exonerates WADA in Chinese Doping Case

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced Tuesday that an independent prosecutor has cleared the organization of wrongdoing three years ago when the organization did not contest the decision of the China Anti-Doping Agency (CHINADA) to declare 23 athletes were not at fault when they tested positive for trimetazidine (TMZ) in early 2021. Tuesday’s release brought an “interim report” of the independent prosecutor’s findings.

Chinese authorities claimed that the positive tests resulted from contamination in a hotel kitchen, and despite a failure to locate the contaminant, that scenario was deemed the most likely outcome by both CHINADA and WADA. Zhang Yufei and Wang Shun were both among the 23 who tested positive, and they went on to win gold medals at that summer’s Tokyo Olympics, with their irregular findings not announced publicly until more than two-and-a-half years later.

But prosecutor Eric Cottier, appointed by WADA in April for full analysis of the situation, declared that his investigation showed that WADA was correct in not challenging CHINADA’s lack of sanction toward the athletes. Per WADA’s press release, Cottier’s presentation to the WADA Executive Committee included the following questions and answers:

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?

  • There is nothing in the file – which is complete – to suggest that WADA showed favouritism or deference, or in any way favoured the 23 swimmers who tested positive for trimetazidine (TMZ) between 1 and 3 January 2021, when it proceeded to review CHINADA’s decision to close the proceedings against them without further action.
  • The Investigator did not find any evidence to suggest any interference or meddling in WADA’s review, as described above, either within the Agency or externally, from any entity or institution, including CHINADA or the Chinese authorities.
  • The investigation did not reveal any irregularities on the part of WADA in the review of CHINADA’s decision; this review was detailed and covered all relevant issues in determining whether or not to appeal the decision.

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?

  • All the elements taken into consideration by WADA, whether they come from the file produced by CHINADA with its decision or from the investigation procedures that it carried out, show the decision not to appeal to be reasonable, both from the point of view of the facts and the applicable rules.

In the months since the 23 positive tests became public, swimmers, coaches and anti-doping officials not affiliated with WADA have expressed heavy skepticism in WADA and proclaimed their mistrust in the organization given its handling of the case. Numerous swimmers spoke out about their displeasure at the recent U.S. Olympic Trials while Olympic gold medalists Michael Phelps and Allison Schmitt have pressed a U.S. Congressional subcommittee to further investigate WADA.

WADA emphasized in its statement that the release of this report prior to the Paris Olympics was meant to re-instill confidence in the organization, but it’s unclear if that will happen, especially given that WADA appointed Cottier to his post, hindering the appearance of full independence.

Following the release of Cottier’s findings, WADA officials declared their satisfaction with the report. President Witold Bańka said, “The Executive Committee was satisfied that Mr. Cottier had access to all elements that he needed to reach his conclusions that WADA showed no bias towards China and that its decision not to appeal the Chinese swimming case was ‘indisputably reasonable’ based on the evidence.”

Bańka added that with the case concluded, the organization would “consider with external legal counsel what measures can be taken against those that have made untrue and potentially defamatory allegations.” Bańka claimed that the “allegations have been extremely damaging to WADA’s reputation and to the confidence and trust that athletes and other stakeholders have in the Agency and in the global anti-doping system.”

Further WADA officials posted statements continuing the defense of the organization’s conduct. Professor Oliver Rabin, the organization’s senior director for science and medicine, said, “a thorough review of all the verifiable facts of the case revealed no evidence to challenge the contamination scenario. Rather, all the available evidence pointed towards no-fault contamination versus intentional ingestion. Ultimately, in his report today, the Independent Prosecutor has confirmed that our conclusions were reasonable, based on the evidence.”

Ross Denzel, the agency’s general counsel, claimed that an appeal of CHINADA’s findings to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) would have been unwise. because WADA “would have had to convince the tribunal that the athletes had not established the contamination scenario on the balance of probabilities (i.e. >50%), something that the available evidence did not permit. According to external counsel engaged at the time, WADA would have lost such an appeal and, accordingly, the clear advice was not to proceed.”

The full release from WADA is available here.

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cotac
cotac
2 days ago

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Kanga1
Kanga1
1 day ago

How unsurprising.
Caesar investigates Caesar!
So China can just keep the gravy train ontrack to WADA. The graft works!

Swimmer
Swimmer
1 day ago

Finally! Hope WADA brings serious charges of defamation against the western media outlets who knew nothing but continuously lie and lie about this case. Honestly, if these people are so confident in the fake evidence they have for their arguments, why don’t they go in front of the CAS and show it? These lowlifes know no bounds

Kanga1
Kanga1
1 day ago
Reply to  Swimmer

Corruption and subservience to a Dictatorship that pays WADA handsomely fot preferential treatment.
Everyone else is immediately exposed and pays a penalty for drug cheating. Systemic abuse by a totalitarian regime for base propaganda purposes is ignored and deliberately covered up!

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1 day ago
Reply to  Swimmer

Hahahahaha

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