Swimming

China Responds to Allegations of Widespread Doping: ‘Fake News’

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By Riley Overend on SwimSwam

China’s foreign ministry spokesman, Wang Wenbin, called recent allegations of widespread doping among Chinese swimmers “fake news” on Monday.

“The relevant reports are fake news and not factual,” Wang said at a press conference in Beijing. “I believe you will also have noted that the World Anti-Doping Agency has put out a very clear response.

“The Chinese swimmers involved were neither at fault nor guilty of negligence, and their behavior did not constitute a doping violation. After an investigation, WADA affirmed the findings of the China anti-doping center.”

News spread over the weekend that 23 Chinese swimmers tested positive for trimetazidine (TMZ) about seven months before the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. Chinese anti-doping authorities conducted their own investigation, claiming the the banned substance was ingested unwittingly without providing an explanation for how traces of the drug appeared in the swimmers’ hotel kitchen. Ultimately, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) decided it could not disprove China’s version of events.

“It was not possible for WADA scientists or investigators to conduct their enquiries on the ground in China given the extreme restrictions in place to due a COVID-related lockdown,” WADA said in a statement.

Meanwhile, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) CEO Travis Tygart has been vocal that WADA “swept these positives under the carpet,” calling the situation a “potential cover-up.” WADA hit back, noting it “reserves its right to take legal action as appropriate.” USADA didn’t back down, putting out another statement.

“When you blow away their rhetoric, the facts remain as have been reported: WADA failed to provisionally suspend the athletes, disqualify results, and publicly disclose the positives,” Tygart said. “These are egregious failures, even if you buy their story that this was contamination and a potent drug ‘magically appeared’ in a kitchen and led to 23 positive tests of elite Chinese swimmers.”

Chinese swimmers named as having tested positive for TMZ in January of 2021 include Tokyo Olympic gold medalists Zhang Yufei and Wang Shun as well as 200 breast world record holder Qin Haiyang.

“Ban them all and never compete again,” British Olympic champion James Guy wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “Give Slam (Duncan Scott, silver medalist in 200 IM behind Wang) his gold medal now.”

USA Swimming chimed in on Saturday, saying that it is “extremely disappointed to hear the allegations reported, and looks forward to swift action and resolution.” On Friday, American swimmers were reportedly told by a USADA official that the Chinese women’s 800 free relay was facing the stripping of their gold medals due to a doping violation by at least one member of the relay. However, WADA later denied that China’s 800 free relay was being disqualified.

Chinese state-owned tabloid Global Times called the doping allegations “slanderous accusations” on Monday, indicating a Western attempt at thwarting China’s sporting prowess.

“Relevant countries are currently manipulating the issue of doping and smearing China’s swimming program, clearly doing so intentionally,” the Global Times wrote.

Australian coach Denis Cotterell defended China in an interview over the weekend with The Sydney Morning Herald. He has been working with the Chinese Swimming Association for the last two years and formerly coached Sun Yang, who was banned for a positive TMZ test back in 2014.

“I am happy to say I’m absolutely in support of my swimmers and dispute the suggestion of anything orchestrated,” Cotterell said. “I see what they go through. I see the measures. I can tell you the stories. I know the facts and I am comfortable.”

German media ARD, which first broke the story in conjunction with the New York Times, released a documentary on Sunday exploring their lengthy investigation. It prompted WADA to release another statement on the matter.

“The agency still stands by the results of its scientific investigation and legal decision concerning the case,” WADA said.

SwimSwam: China Responds to Allegations of Widespread Doping: ‘Fake News’

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