Home News U.S. swimming stars slam anti-doping agency ahead of Olympics

U.S. swimming stars slam anti-doping agency ahead of Olympics

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Two of the United States’ most prominent Olympic swimmers will ask Congress on Tuesday to hold the World Anti-Doping Agency accountable for failing to properly police allegations of cheating by elite Chinese athletes.

In testimony prepared for delivery to a House subcommittee Tuesday evening, 23-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps and four-time Olympic gold medalist Alison Schmidt urged Congress to push for reforms of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). They said uncertainty about whether Chinese swimmers use banned drugs is unfair to athletes competing in next month’s Summer Olympics in Paris.

The hearing was The New York Times reported The Chinese Anti-Doping Agency and the World Anti-Doping Agency declined to punish 23 elite Chinese swimmers who tested positive for drugs in early 2021, paving the way for them to compete in the Olympics in Tokyo that summer.

Chinese authorities said the positive tests were because the swimmers were unknowingly contaminated with trace amounts of banned drugs, a conclusion accepted by the World Anti-Doping Agency but questioned by many anti-doping experts.

Schmidt was a member of the U.S. 4x200m freestyle relay team that finished second to China at the Tokyo Olympics. Five activities At this Olympics, Chinese swimmers who were found to have banned drugs months ago won medals, including three gold medals.

“We played our best,” Schmidt wrote in testimony to the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Panel. “We practiced hard. We followed every rule. We respected their performance and accepted failure.”

She added: “After learning that the Chinese relay athletes had not been banned, I recalled the scene with a lot of doubt. We may never know the truth, and this may haunt many of us for years.”

WADA faces scrutiny over handling of Chinese swimmers’ positive drug tests This year’s Summer Olympics is facing a crisis.

Some American athletes who will compete in Paris, including two-time Olympic gold medalist Lilly King, have said they are unsure they can compete on a level playing field. Phelps, who like Schmidt has retired from competitive swimming, called WADA “an organization that has repeatedly demonstrated its inability or unwillingness to consistently enforce its policies around the world” in prepared remarks Tuesday.

The United States provides more funding to WADA than any other country, providing more than $3.6 million this year.

Travis Tygart, CEO of the United States Anti-Doping Agency and an outspoken critic of the World Anti-Doping Agency, suggested in remarks prepared for delivery to a House subcommittee that the United States place conditions on its funding of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

He suggested that the World Anti-Doping Agency should set up an independent expert committee to review cases where athletes tested positive for drugs but their countries refused to punish them in order to prevent the tragedy of Chinese swimmers. Under current regulations, even athletes who have not been punished should disclose their positive drug tests.

In the case of Chinese swimmers before the 2021 Olympics, they did not publicly announce the positive drug tests, were not punished, and continued to compete in the Olympics without their opponents being aware of any concerns about their use of banned drugs.

Tiger will also ask the World Anti-Doping Agency to disclose all case files related to positive drug tests in China and conduct an audit of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Tygart said failure to address what he called the “WADA horror show” “risks destroying the dreams of tens of millions of young people around the world who rely on the protection of the global anti-doping system to compete in a clean, safe and fair environment, rather than one that benefits a select few at WADA.”

The agency, which stands by its handling of the positive test, has appointed a former senior Swiss prosecutor to investigate whether it did anything wrong or gave China preferential treatment, though U.S. officials, other countries’ anti-doping agencies and athletes have questioned whether the investigation, whose results are expected before the Olympics, is truly independent.

According to the subcommittee, World Anti-Doping Agency President Witold Banka was invited to testify at the House hearing but declined to appear.

The New York Times reported in April that China’s anti-doping agency claimed the two athletes should not be punished because trace amounts of the drug were found in a hotel kitchen when they competed in late 2020 and early 2021, and the drug tested positive for a prescription heart drug called trimetazidine (TMZ).

Chinese authorities concluded that the positive post-competition doping tests were because the swimmers unknowingly consumed food contaminated with TMZ, but it was unclear how the drug, in pill form, ended up in the food of so many swimmers.

Despite rules requiring public disclosure of contamination incidents — even when athletes are cleared of wrongdoing — China has kept positive test results secret. The World Anti-Doping Agency, set up to back up countries when they don’t follow the rules, accepted the explanations of Chinese authorities, did not conduct an on-the-ground investigation and declined to try to discipline athletes.

The New York Times’ revelations about those positive tests and how WADA handled them have raised questions around the world about the agency charged with maintaining the integrity of the Olympics.

The loudest protests have come from the United States, which is increasingly competing with China in swimming. Top drug officials in the Biden administration have called for greater accountability and transparency from the World Anti-Doping Agency, members of Congress have urged the FBI to investigate the matter, and lawmakers are considering whether to continue funding the agency.

In prepared remarks, Schmidt described the efforts U.S. athletes make to ensure compliance with anti-doping rules, from having to urinate in front of drug testers to avoiding simple medications like topical creams to relieve dry skin if they are unsure of the ingredients.

“There was even one history exam in college where a drug tester showed up and sat next to me,” Schmidt said.

Phelps first testified before Congress on the issue in 2017 in response to a doping scandal. A former Russian official publicly stated In his witness statement at Tuesday’s hearing, Phelps said it was “unbelievable” that he was speaking about the same issue again seven years later.

“It is clear to me that any attempt to reform WADA has failed and that it continues to have deep-rooted systemic problems that undermine the integrity of international sport and the rights of athletes to compete fairly,” Phelps said.

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