Australia welcomes WADA review in China swim dope case

Steve Larkin |

WADA is launching an independent review into its handling of the Chinese swimming doping case.
WADA is launching an independent review into its handling of the Chinese swimming doping case.

Australia is welcoming an independent review into the under-fire World Anti-Doping Agency’s handling of a 23 Chinese swimmers who tested positive for a banned substance but avoided punishment.

Though the findings of the review will not be delivered for two months, Swimming Australia (SA) praised the decision, saying it hoped the investigation would restore faith in global anti-doping systems ahead of the Olympic Games.

“We welcome the news that WADA has launched its own independent review of how these positive doping tests of Chinese swimmers were handled,” SA chief Rob Woodhouse said on Friday.

“Transparency and trust are the cornerstones of the anti-doping system, and we hope the Independent Review provides further clarity on the processes involved in this instance.

“We are not alleging any wrongdoing but we are calling for transparency and, like the rest of the sports world, we await the findings.”

Sun Yang on the podium at the 2019 World Swimming Championships.
Chinese swimmers including the banned Sun Yang have been the target of widespread doping claims. (AP PHOTO)

Sports Integrity Australia (SIA) boss David Sharpe had called for the independent review on Thursday, with WADA announcing it overnight Australian time.

In a statement, Sharpe said he hoped the investigation would “provide clarity and ensure faith is maintained in the global anti-doping system”.

The investigation into WADA’s handling of the China swim team case, which has sparked global outrage, will be led by Swiss prosecutor Eric Cottier.

A former attorney general of the canton of Vaud, Cottier will have access to all case files and documents and will be free to consult any independent experts, WADA said.

Calls for an independent investigation have grown since a New York Times report last Saturday said 23 Chinese swimmers tested positive for the banned drug trimetazidine (TMZ) months before the COVID-delayed Tokyo Olympics in July 2021.

The swimmers avoided sanctions after an investigation by Chinese authorities ruled the adverse analytical findings, or AAFs, were the result of being inadvertently exposed to the drug through contamination.

A report determined all the swimmers who tested positive were staying at the same hotel where traces of trimetazidine (TMZ), which is found in heart medication, were discovered in the kitchen.

WADA has defended its handling of the case, saying it had no evidence to challenge China’s findings and that external counsel had advised against appealing them.

David Sharpe.
David Sharpe says he hopes the inquiry provides clarity and boosts faith in anti-doping measures. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

Witold Banka, WADA president, earlier said the anti-doping body’s reputation was “under attack”.

“In the past few days, WADA has been unfairly accused of bias in favour of China by not appealing the CHINADA case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport,” he said, referring to China’s anti-doping agency and sport’s highest court respectively.

“We continue to reject the false accusations and we are pleased to be able to put these questions into the hands of an experienced, respected and independent prosecutor.”

The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) also led the call for an independent investigation along with an overhaul of WADA to restore confidence in the global body ahead of the Paris Olympics starting in late July.

USADA chief Travis Tygart accused WADA of being involved in a “potential cover-up” and the global anti-doping agency responded by threatening legal action.

The New York Times reported the White House had also called for an inquiry.

In addition to the independent prosecutor, WADA will send a compliance audit team to China to assess the state of its anti-doping program.

It will also invite independent auditors from the broader anti-doping community to join the mission.