WADA Says ‘Athletes Should Not Have Concerns’ Over Chinese Doping Case


WADA Says ‘Athletes Should Not Have Concerns’ Over Chinese Doping Case

In a nearly two-hour press availability Monday, officials from the World Anti-Doping Agency endorsed its handling of doping positives within the Chinese program in 2021 as evidence of its protection of athletes.

The case stemmed from reporting by the New York Times, Australia’s Daily Telegraph and the German broadcaster ARD that 23 Chinese swimmers had tested positive for Trimetazidine in January 2021. An investigation by the Chinese Anti-Doping Agency (CHINADA) found in April 2021 that the cause was contamination of a hotel kitchen, which WADA found no ground to dispute in its review of the case in June and July. No bans were handed out, no results were erased and the Chinese athletes were allowed to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, with both organizations and World Aquatics accepting that no anti-doping rules violations occurred.

That conclusion, to WADA officials, amounted to the systems working correctly. When asked several times Monday about the message that decision sent to other swimmers, WADA officials stressed that its burden was to protect Chinese athletes – both their privacy and their ability to compete – after being innocent of knowingly ingesting illegal substances. That was paramount over disclosing to other athletes about a positive test.

“This is an explanation that WADA and not only WADA but World Aquatics scrutinized extremely clearly,” WADA general counsel Ross Wenzel said. “This will be clear from what Professor (Olivier) Rabin (WADA’s Senior Director of Science and Medicine) has said and what I’ve said, based on a number of contextual elements, factual elements but also on the science, we concluded that this was a case of innocent exposure. And that is our genuine conclusion with respect to what happened here based on the evidence that we have been and still have now.

“Therefore, athletes from other countries that are competing against these athletes should not have concerns. These were athletes that, we have to assume, were innocently exposed to Trimetazidine contamination.”

That was Wenzel’s answer when provided a variety of scenarios, including the notion that other athletes have been provisionally suspended for positive tests and missed out on international events even when having later been exonerated of doping. (WADA’s response on the issue of provisional suspensions, as well as on disclosure of the tests without a doping rule-violation having occurred, was that such actions are under the purview of the investigative body, i.e. CHINADA.)

Director General Olivier Niggli went even further. Taking the CHINADA investigation for its merits and WADA having agreed with the key portions of it, he says, is evidence that Chinese swimmers are innocent of doping. As such, provisional suspensions or prejudices against them would have effectively victimized them for reasons beyond their control.

“I think it’s extremely important to make the distinction here,” Niggli said. “The questions that were asked infer that we’re dealing with cheaters who may have been allowed to compete. This is not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about just the opposite, which is the system having protected a number of innocent athletes from behind taken out of sport, and I think you’re all going to have to reflect on the fact that we have a very tough system in anti-doping. There’s a lot of burden on the athletes, but we’re also receiving regular calls, including from the U.S. a lot, and the fact is that we have to protect innocent athletes.

“That’s an example where, based on the evidence that are available – which you may or may not believe, but that’s the only ones that are there – the system has a role to protect a number of innocent athletes from being kept out of the (sport). The system works both ways, and that’s what has to be remembered.”

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David Abineri
David Abineri
1 month ago

And what was the evidence that they were innocent of knowingly ingesting illegal substances?

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