‘The system protected innocent athletes,’ says World Anti-Doping Agency about Chinese swimmers testing positive

‘The system protected innocent athletes,’ says World Anti-Doping Agency about Chinese swimmers testing positive
‘The system protected innocent athletes,’ says World Anti-Doping Agency about Chinese swimmers testing positive

The World Anti-Doping Agency wants to remove all suspicion. The regulatory body organized a press conference on Monday April 22 to support its line of defense in the face of growing criticism. Agency representatives also answered questions from journalists, including some behind the investigation published on April 20 by the New York Times, and the report by the German channel ARD, which revealed the positive tests. of 23 unsanctioned Chinese athletes. “No Source has provided proof”affirmed Witold Banka, president of the AMA, who claims to have “respected the processes”.

According to the New York Times and the ARD, twenty-three Chinese swimmers tested positive in January 2021 for trimetazidine, a substance banned on the grounds that it improves blood circulation. Thirteen of these twenty-three swimmers competed in the Tokyo Games a few weeks later, in the summer of 2021, and three were gold medalists. uA report written by the Chinese Anti-Doping Agency (Chinada) concluded, in March 2021, that there was food contamination, revealing traces of trimetazidine in the kitchen of the hotel where the swimmers were housed (hood, spice containers, siphon) . The World Anti-Doping Agency, alerted in April 2021, did not launch an on-site investigation, particularly due to the Covid-19 pandemic, nor appeal the Chinese decision to exonerate the swimmers.

“As WADA cannot conduct an independent investigation, why did it accept Chinada’s explanation when it is rare to conclude that there was ‘no fault’, and the burden of proof lies to the athlete?”asked the Global Athlete and FairSport organizations in a joint press release. “The Source of the contamination has not been discovered” acknowledged Ross Wenzel, general counsel of WADA, but representatives of the agency say they have studied “in depth” the contamination scenario established by Chinada, and having successfully tested it with independent scientific experts.

The AMA adhered to the thesis of food contamination in the face of “cluster of indications corroborating this theory”. Among these “indications”representatives of the authority mentioned “very low concentrations” trimetazidine, “fluctuating results incompatible with deliberate ingestion even in microdosing” (some athletes tested negative a few hours before or after their positive test), or the fact that among the athletes residing in other hotels, none tested positive (although WADA does not know precisely “in how many hotels” different these athletes were accommodated).

The body was also questioned about the difference in treatment with the case of Kamila Valieva, a Russian skater suspended for four years in 2022 for testing positive for the same substance. This sanction followed an appeal procedure by WADA when the Russian Anti-Doping Agency had cleared its skater for reasons similar to Chinada. Ross Wenzel said: “A vast majority of positive tests had a lower concentration At case of Valieva [2,1 nanogrammes]adding that it was then not possible “to exclude voluntary taking” of the substance by the Russian athlete, who had not provided proof “credible” of food contamination.

“Theoretically, WADA could have appealed” with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the general counsel even argued, but “we would certainly have lost”for lack of “credible evidence of wrongdoing” of the 23 Chinese swimmers. He also mentioned “many precedents” similar cases not disclosed to the public, citing “more than ten athletes tested positive on American soil in 2014”where WADA, which this time launched an on-site investigation, concluded that there was “meat contamination”.

“Public reporting of positive tests requires a violation of the anti-doping code”also clarified Ross Wenzel, to justify the non-disclosure of these positive tests to the public: “this would have constituted a violation of the world anti-doping code and privacy”. For his part, Witold Banka, boss of the international organization, expressed no regrets regarding the management of this file: “If we had to do it again, we would do the exact same thing.”declared the Polish leader.

“The system protected innocent athletes”, even affirmed Olivier Niggli, director general of the AMA, welcoming that all the body’s control processes had been respected. It is precisely these processes that are in the sights of certain sports stakeholders, who are demanding more transparency, and calling into question the organization of the fight against doping based on national agencies controlling their own athletes.

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