Wada invites independent prosecutor to review Chinese swimming case

There were allegations Chinese swimmers were allowed to take part in Tokyo 2020 despite testing positive for a banned substance

Pa Sport Staff
Thursday 25 April 2024 19:06 BST
The events being called into question took place during Tokyo 2020
The events being called into question took place during Tokyo 2020 (Getty Images)

The World Anti-Doping Agency has invited an independent prosecutor to conduct a “thorough review” of the organisation’s handling of China’s no-fault contamination case involving 23 swimmers at the Tokyo Olympics, which has seen its integrity and reputation “under attack”.

Britain’s triple Olympic swimming champion champion Adam Peaty had criticised WADA for a “lack of transparency” following allegations the Chinese swimmers were permitted to compete at the delayed Games in 2021 despite testing positive for a banned substance.

China’s 30-strong swimming team won six medals in Tokyo, including three golds.

A joint investigation by German TV channel ARD and the New York Times claimed last week that a majority had tested positive seven months beforehand for trimetazidine - a heart drug which improves performance.

The revelations caused widespread criticism of WADA, which had accepted an explanation from Chinese authorities blaming accidental contamination at the team hotel.

Wada has been criticised for its handling of the case
Wada has been criticised for its handling of the case (Getty Images)

UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) expressed concern over the reports and said a more transparent approach was needed, as well as calling on WADA to initiate an independent review of the “regulatory framework and processes applied”.

The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), meanwhile, had called for an overhaul of WADA as it branded the issue as a “stab in the back to clean athletes”.

WADA had previously said based on “all available scientific evidence and intelligence” gathered that there was “no basis” under its code to challenge the China Anti-Doping Agency’s (CHINADA’s) findings of “environmental contamination” - a position which was also accepted by World Aquatics.

Following the latest criticism, WADA released a lengthy statement on Thursday confirmed a virtual meeting of its executive committee had taken place and it was decided an independent review would take place.

Eric Cottier - a member of the Board of the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law, Prosecutor Extraordinary at the federal level in Switzerland - will oversee the process.

WADA president Witold Banka said: “WADA‘s integrity and reputation is under attack. In the past few days, WADA has been unfairly accused of bias in favour of China by not appealing the CHINADA case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“We continue to reject the false accusations and we are pleased to be able to put these questions into the hands of an experienced, respected and independent prosecutor.

“I thank the members of WADA‘s executive committee for meeting at such short notice and for their support in this matter.”

In addition to the appointment of an independent prosecutor, WADA will send a compliance audit team to China “in order to assess the current state of its anti-doping program as part of the agency’s regular compliance monitoring program”.

Cottier is to be granted “full and unfettered access” to all of WADA‘s files and documents related to the matter, and is expected to deliver his findings within two months.

As part of the review, Cottier will be asked to present his opinion as to whether there was 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 swimmers.

The decision by WADA not to challenge on appeal the contamination scenario put forward by CHINADA will also be looked at to determine if that was “a reasonable one” in the circumstances.

Following the conclusion of Cottier’s findings, WADA‘s executive committee will “assess it and consider next steps, as appropriate”, the governing body added.

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