Chinese swimmers case: Independent prosecutor appointed to examine role of World Anti-Doping Agency

Suspected, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) seeks to clear customs

Chinese swimmers case: Independent prosecutor appointed to examine role of World Anti-Doping Agency

Suspected, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) seeks to clear customs. At the heart of a case linked to the positive tests of twenty-three Chinese swimmers in 2021, WADA appointed, on Thursday April 25, an independent prosecutor who will be responsible for examining its management of this case.

“The integrity and reputation of WADA are under attack,” said Pole Witold Banka, president of the agency, in a statement. “We continue to reject the false accusations and are pleased to be able to entrust these matters to an experienced, respected and independent prosecutor,” he added.

The decision to appoint Eric Cottier, retired Swiss prosecutor, was taken unanimously by the executive committee, which met virtually this Thursday. At the same time, the agency will “shortly” launch a compliance audit in China to “evaluate the current state of its anti-doping program”.

According to a recent investigation by the German channel ARD and the New York Times, twenty-three of the best Chinese swimmers tested positive in early 2021 for trimetazidine, a substance banned since 2014 on the grounds that it improves blood circulation, already detected in the Chinese swimmer Sun Yang and the young Russian skater Kamila Valieva.

Conclusions before the Olympics

Of these twenty-three swimmers, thirteen participated in the Tokyo Olympics in the summer of 2021. And three returned with gold around their necks: Zhang Yufei (200m butterfly and 4 × 200m freestyle), Wang Shun (200m medley) and Yang Junxuan (4×200m freestyle). At the time, no provisional suspension had been issued against these swimmers, then a report from the Chinese anti-doping agency (Chinada) concluded, in March 2021, that there was food contamination. WADA then validated this conclusion.

Since Saturday, the affair has raised questions about the transparency and fairness of global anti-doping, already shaken a few years ago by the cheating of another sporting giant: Russia. The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USA) notably called on Tuesday for an overhaul of WADA and an independent investigation into this matter.

On Thursday, the WADA, headquartered in Montreal (Canada), assured in its press release that prosecutor Cottier would benefit from “full and unhindered access to all WADA files and documents relating to this case” . She specified that he would begin his investigation in “the coming days” and that he should deliver his conclusions “within two months”, therefore before the next Olympic Games in Paris (July 26-August 11).

Regarding the upcoming inspection in China, WADA announced that it would “invite a number of independent auditors from the broad anti-doping community to join the audit team for this mission”.