Chinese Swimmers’ Doping Case: WADA Paves the Way for Review

To dispel allegations of bias levelled against it and to address the concerns of stakeholders, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has paved the way for an independent prosecutor to review its handling of the Chinese swimmers’ doping case.

In 2021, following its investigation, the China Anti-Doping Agency (CHINADA) accepted that the 23 swimmers tested positive for the prohibited substance trimetazidine (TMZ) on account of contamination; the samples were collected at a national swimming meet. This decision was then sent to World Aquatics and WADA. Both the bodies decided not to appeal the decision after review.

WADA accepted the explanation of contamination since the applicable procedure was adhered to, and all the evidence supported the theory of contamination. For instance, TMZ was detected in the kitchen of the hotel where the swimmers were staying. Several other factors were taken into consideration, including the sample results being at consistently low levels, the results varying from negative to positive a few hours apart, where the athletes were tested more than once, etc.

It was also noted that the athletes would not have gained any performance benefit considering the concentration of the substance, even at the national competition itself. So, the athletes couldn’t have been at any advantage at the Tokyo Olympics 2021, which took place seven months later.

Further, it was pointed out that if an appeal were to be filed, it would have been a technical appeal to convert a finding of “no ADRV” into that of “an ADRV with no fault” on the part of the athletes without any request for imposition of any period of ineligibility or any results to be disqualified.

As a judgment could not have been obtained before the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, WADA considered it prudent not to challenge CHINADA’s decision before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and thereby burden the athletes.