‘Fooled’: Chinese doping scandal disrupts swimming

The revelation that 23 Chinese swimmers tested positive for banned substances seven months before the Tokyo Olympics, but were secretly arrested and allowed to continue competing, underscores the fight to eliminate drugs from international sport. A new critique of the global authority that oversees drug testing, exposing bitter and sometimes deep personal rifts within.

A New York Times investigation reveals previously unreported details of the 2021 issue. In this case, the Chinese swimming team, including almost half of the team China sent to the Tokyo Olympics, tested positive for a banned prescription heart drug that helps athletes improve their stamina. Reduce recovery time.

Within hours, an incident that had been kept secret for more than three years was exposed and caused an uproar. The American Olympian, who won silver in Tokyo, said he felt his team was “cheated” in the race won by China.British gold medalist asked for a lifetime ban For swimmers who are on social media. And the simmering feud between global anti-doping officials and those in the United States was exposed in vitriolic statements and legal threats.

“When you have a situation where a positive test is not clearly identified and the proper processes and procedures are not followed, doubt creeps into the minds of athletes who are playing clean competition,” said the Stanford University coach who led the event. Greg Meehan said. US women’s team at the Tokyo Games. “When they go to a competition, they can’t help but think, ‘Am I participating in a clean event?’

The aftermath occurred less than 100 days until the opening ceremony of the Paris Olympics. This has generated unpleasant headlines not only for the sport, but also for the competition itself, which relies on global anti-doping regulators to ensure fair play and the integrity of the medals awarded. It can validate years of training, define an athlete’s career, and give competitors a sense of pride. nation.

China’s anti-doping agency, known as Chinada, acknowledged the positive tests in response to questions last week, but said the swimmers had unknowingly taken trace amounts of banned substances and that they He said that the action against him was not justified. WADA said it had no “credible evidence” to dispute China’s interpretation and refused to issue a suspension or disqualification or even announce the positive test.

In many ways, the battle for China’s positives is about process. Except in the rarest of circumstances, a player who tests positive for a potent banned substance, such as the trimetazidine in question, will receive at least a provisional suspension while an investigation is conducted. become. There is no evidence that this has happened in the case of Chinese athletes.

WADA and Chinada strongly dispute claims that they concealed the positive test and said they followed all applicable regulations in conducting the investigation. Günter Younger, head of WADA’s intelligence and investigations division, said the agency had “diligently investigated all leads and lines of investigation in this matter”.

“The data we have clearly shows that there was no attempt by the Chinese authorities to cover up the positive tests that they were reporting in the usual way,” he said.

But for those personally affected, this revelation was far more personal.

The newspaper identified five sports in which Chinese swimmers who tested positive for banned substances won medals at the Tokyo Games, including three gold medals.

Paige Madden, a member of the U.S. 4×200 freestyle relay team that finished second behind China with a time that exceeded the previous world record, said in a text message to the New York Times that the doping case should be handled appropriately. He said he hoped it would be done. An investigation was conducted and medal redistribution was considered.

“We had to praise China’s effort that day,” she said of the loss to a faster team. “But today, I felt like Team USA was cheated. We didn’t get to celebrate the world record, we didn’t get a moment for the team to stand atop the podium, admire the flag, and sing the national anthem.”

Three-time gold medalist British Olympic swimmer Adam Peaty said in a post on X: criticized It is an uneven application of the system known as no strict liability, which is the backbone of the International Doping Code, whereby athletes are held liable and avoid consequences if a banned substance is detected in their system, regardless of the route it took. The hurdles for achieving this goal have become extremely high. Peaty’s Olympic teammate James Guy, who won two gold medals from Tokyo, went further, writing:ban them all and never compete again

But an even uglier conflict occurred between the world’s leading anti-doping officials.

Late Saturday, WADA threatened legal action against Travis T. Tygart, the chief executive of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Unusually personal news release It accused him of “undermining WADA’s efforts to protect clean sport around the world.”

Tygart, who had publicly criticized China’s handling of the incident, quickly fired back. “It is disappointing to see WADA succumb to threats and intimidation tactics when faced with blatant violations of the rules governing anti-doping,” he said. “Despite blowing away their rhetoric, the facts remain as reported. WADA provisionally suspended athletes, disqualified results, and failed to publicize positive results. These are abysmal failures. .”

The exchange brought into public view a long-standing feud between global and U.S. anti-doping officials. WADA Director-General Olivier Nigri had previously expressed his displeasure with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and Tygart in an interview in March.

“Everything we do is criticized by them,” Nigri said.

Wada Said We had contacted the legal department for Tygart’s latest comments.but Wada and China’s anti-doping agency It also threatened legal action against media outlets that published information it characterized as “misleading”.

However, it is unclear what will or will happen next. WADA is taking a wait-and-see approach to the Chinese swimmer’s positive test. World Aquatics, the governing body for international swimming, told the Times it believed the positive tests were handled “diligently, professionally and in accordance with all applicable anti-doping regulations.”

And on Sunday, China’s best swimmers competed in the third day of the country’s Olympic trials. Among the swimmers who tested positive in 2021 are some who will return to the spotlight, including Zhang Yufei, who won four Olympic medals, including two gold medals at the Tokyo Games.

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