USADA calls for WADA overhaul, probe into China swim doping

World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) president Witold Banka (Fabrice COFFRINI)
World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) president Witold Banka (Fabrice COFFRINI)

The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) called Tuesday for an overhaul of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and an independent investigation into Chinese swimmers testing positive before the Tokyo Olympics.

WADA continued Tuesday to refute accusations from USADA chief Travis Tygart of covering up 23 Chinese swimmers testing positive for prescription heart drug trimetazidine (TMZ), which can enhance performance.

USADA on Tuesday declared that no questions about WADA or China's anti-doping agency (CHINADA) were "satisfactorily answered" in WADA's Monday news conference.

"The selective and self-serving application of the rules we heard about yesterday destroys public trust in the authenticity and value of the Olympic and Paralympic Movement," the USADA release said.

"Learning that different rules can be applied to different countries sours the commitment of those who are vital to its ongoing viability, including the world's best athletes, fans, sponsors, and the next generation of athletes."

WADA, however, said Tuesday it stood by the decision not to challenge CHINADA findings that the swimmers had unwittingly ingested the substance from food at a meet, a result accepted by World Aquatics that allowed the Chinese swimmers to compete in Tokyo.

"At all stages of this case, WADA has acted with due diligence and according to the agreed process and rules of the World Anti-Doping Code," WADA said Tuesday. "WADA reviewed this case professionally and thoroughly, both from a scientific and legal perspective.

"WADA had no evidence to challenge the environmental contamination scenario that led to CHINADA closing these cases in June 2021."

Several of the swimmers won medals at Tokyo with some set to compete at this summer's Paris Olympics.

WADA could have taken the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) but WADA president Witold Banka said there was no credible evidence to dispute the CHINADA finding.

"Indeed, WADA was advised by external counsel that it would lose any appeal at (CAS) based on such a challenge," WADA said Tuesday.

"So far, despite all the attention created around this story, nobody has been able to produce any evidence that would allow a successful prosecution of these cases."

USADA, however, called WADA's inaction a "failure" of the entire anti-doping system.

"We urgently call on governments and sport leaders to step up and immediately undertake action to ensure that real independence, oversight and accountability are created in the global anti-doping system so that the world can have trust and confidence in the system and those who lead it," USADA said.

"Given we're on the eve of the 2024 Summer Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games, athletes and the public desperately need and deserve confidence in the global anti-doping system headed into these Games.

"An immediate first step to repairing the damage of this cover-up is for governments to appoint an Independent Prosecutor to review the entire case file of the 23 positive tests and ensure that justice is delivered.

"The effort to achieve whatever justice possible at this time must happen before the 2024 Paris Games, as it is unfair for all athletes competing in these Games to possibly compete against those who tested positive and whose results were kept secret until now."

- 'Stab in the back' -

USADA objected to not pushing the case to CAS, saying: "WADA's willingness to blindfold and handcuff itself and to maintain that it would do the same thing all over again is yet another stab in the back to clean athletes."

USADA also asked for WADA Executive and Foundation Board governments to launch a review into the positive tests and overhaul WADA to prevent any repeat before the Paris Olympics.

"All athletes, sponsors, and fans of the Olympic and Paralympic Movement deserve a real global guard dog that has the teeth and the determination to apply the rules uniformly and fairly," USADA said.

"We call on governments and the sport movement to overhaul WADA to ensure a cover-up of positive samples on the eve of the Olympic Games cannot occur ever again."

Britain's Aquatics GB said in a statement it was "extremely concerned" over the matter, adding: "The potential loss of trust and reputational damage to sport is significant and we will be monitoring any further updates and possible resolutions closely."