WADA rebuts USADA chief’s claims on Chinese swimmers as “politically motivated”

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21st April 2024 – (Hong Kong) The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) expressed dismay over what it described as “politically motivated” accusations by Travis Tygart, CEO of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), regarding the handling of doping cases involving Chinese swimmers. In a robust statement released on Saturday, WADA defended its integrity and dismissed Tygart’s allegations as “outrageous, completely false and defamatory.”

WADA’s reaction follows Tygart’s claims that the agency failed to adequately address the positive doping tests of 23 Chinese swimmers for trimetazidine (TMZ), a substance the athletes were reportedly exposed to through environmental contamination. These events date back to early 2021, with WADA’s Science Department concluding after a thorough review in mid-2021 that there was no substantial ground to dispute the contamination claim.

The agency highlighted the comprehensive assessments conducted by leading anti-doping experts, which supported the contamination explanation. WADA’s statement pointed out a perceived double standard in Tygart’s approach, noting that similar conclusions of contamination involving U.S. athletes have been accepted in the past. “It is implicit in his statement that Tygart does not accept the finding of environmental contamination in this case, although he cannot say why,” WADA noted, suggesting that Tygart’s stance might undermine the global effort to maintain a clean and fair sporting environment.

In response to Tygart’s recent assertions, which also hinted at a possible cover-up by WADA, the agency confirmed that USADA had reached out earlier in 2023 with suspicions but failed to provide any substantiating evidence. WADA now finds itself compelled to refer the matter to its legal counsel for potential further action.

Established in 1999, WADA’s mandate is to lead the global campaign against doping in sports through international cooperation. Meanwhile, the China Anti-Doping Agency (CHINADA) has also stepped into the fray, criticising what it calls “misleading” reports by some foreign media outlets regarding the drug testing of Chinese swimmers ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

CHINADA clarified that it conducted doping tests during a national swimming event in June 2021, where the presence of trimetazidine was detected at “extremely low concentrations.” An exhaustive investigation ensued, examining aspects such as event organization, accommodation, and the use of medicine and supplements, which affirmed the contamination scenario. CHINADA determined that the athletes were not at fault for the positive results and communicated its findings and supporting evidence to WADA and World Aquatics (formerly FINA), which subsequently concurred with the conclusions.