WADA confirms it cleared Chinese swimmers who tested positive before Tokyo 2020

Swimming Canada has issued a statement calling for more transparency following Saturday's revelation that 23 Chinese swimmers were cleared to compete at the Tokyo Olympics despite testing positive for a banned heart medication.

Swim Canada says 'exceptions must be communicated transparently'

Chinese women's swimmers, wearing white and red zippered tops and pants, pose with their gold medals after setting a world record in the 4x200-metre event at the Tokyo Olympics on July 29, 2021.
A Chinese women's swimming relay team is pictured after receiving their gold medals from the 200-metre event at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. The 30-member team team earned six medals, including three gold. (Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images/File)

Swimming Canada has issued a statement calling for more transparency following Saturday's revelation that 23 Chinese swimmers were cleared to compete at the Tokyo Olympics despite testing positive for a banned heart medication.

The national governing body said it is "committed to clean sport and the strict enforcement of anti-doping rules to maintain a level playing field.

"Rules must be applied equitably across high performance sport, and exceptions must be communicated transparently. Doping can deprive clean athletes of hard-earned moments they deserve, such as standing on the podium and the life-changing opportunities that may follow."

Swimming Canada also noted it is seeking further information about the ruling from the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), World Aquatics, which governs international swimming, and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport and Sport Canada.

"It is of paramount importance that athletes who train and compete according to the principles of clean sport be respected," the release said.

The swimmers tested positive for trimetazidine in the months leading up to the start of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said after reviewing a television documentary and newspaper reports it stands by its decision to clear the swimmers and did so because it agreed with Chinese authorities and ruled their samples had been contaminated.

'No basis to challenge Chinese agency's findings'

"Following WADA's review of the documentary, the agency still stands firmly by the results of its scientific investigation and legal decision concerning the case," WADA said in the statement Sunday. "We are equally confident that WADA's independent Intelligence and Investigations Department followed up on all allegations received, which were not corroborated by any evidence; and thus, did not meet WADA threshold to open an investigation."

WADA said based on available scientific evidence and intelligence, "which was gathered, assessed and tested by experts in the pharmacology of trimetazidine (TMZ); and, by anti-doping experts," it had no basis under the global anti-doping code to challenge the Chinese agency's findings of environmental contamination.

WADA said its position in the latest Chinese case was also accepted by World Aquatics.

COC, COC AC gathering information

In a joint statement, the COC and COC Athletes' Commission said they are in touch with various partners in order to obtain more information about the matter.

"The [COC] and the COC Athletes' Commission are committed to clean, fair, and safe sport, and take matters of doping or any other form of cheating extremely seriously," read a statement from the two organizations on Monday.

"The reports in the ARD documentary are concerning and were not previously known to us. We are in communication with national and international sport partners, including Swimming Canada and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, to gather more information and determine potential next steps."

On Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin described the media reports as "disinformation and a misrepresentation," and affirmed WADA's decision.

Wang said China's anti-doping authorities investigated the incident and found the positive results were due to "the ingestion of contaminated food by the relevant athletes without knowledge of the contaminated food, and the Chinese swimmers involved were not at fault or negligent, which did not constitute a doping violation."

WADA scheduled a news conference in Montreal for later Monday, saying its president, Witold Banka, and director general Olivier Niggli would be among the officials on hand to answer questions, also its top prosecuting lawyer and head of investigations.

The 30-member Chinese swim team won six medals in Tokyo, including three gold.

Many of the athletes still compete for China and are expected to swim at the Paris Olympics that start in July.

With files from The Associated Press

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

Get up to speed on what's happening in sports. Delivered weekdays.


The next issue of The Buzzer will soon be in your inbox.

Discover all CBC newsletters in the Subscription Centre.opens new window