— Published on April 22, 2024

On the Chinese issue, WADA does not move an eyelash

EventsInstitutions Focus

The affair caused a stir. Less than 100 days before the Paris 2024 Games, its echo could well resonate for a while to come. According to the German TV ARD and the American daily New York Times, twenty-three of China's top swimmers tested positive for doping during a competition held in January 2021 in Shijiazhuang, China. None have been suspended, even provisionally.

Both media outlets were aware of a report from the Chinese Anti-Doping Agency (CHINADA), which followed an investigation by the Chinese Ministry of Public Security. The substance detected would be trimetazidine, a product banned since 2014, supposed to improve blood circulation. A molecule made very public in February 2022, during the Beijing Winter Games, for having been found in the analyzes carried out on the Russian skater Kamila Valieva.

Cases of doping in Chinese swimming? So far, nothing very new. But the affair is made murky, and frankly suspicious, by the chronology of the facts. The CHINADA report was published in March 2021. It has not been made public. Four months later, thirteen of the twenty-three swimmers competed at the Tokyo 2020 Games, including Wang Shun, gold medalist in the 200m medley and silver in the mixed relay, and Zhang Yufei (pictured above, at center), quadruple medalist in Tokyo, including gold in the 200m butterfly and the 4x200m relay.

According to ARD and New York Times, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was aware of this avalanche of positive cases. The International Swimming Federation (World Aquatics) as well. But the two authorities stuck to the explanations given by the Chinese authorities, namely mass contamination following a “ contaminated food supply. »

Pointed out throughout the weekend for its passivity in the face of such an affair, and its lack of transparency, WADA defended itself by explaining that it had not retained “no basis” allowing to “contest the explanation of the contamination”. It highlights in particular the small quantity of the doping product found in the swimmers' analyses. Same story with World Aquatics, which is also quick to justify its silence and clemency by an inability to challenge the line of defense of the Chinese authorities.

Convincing? Difficult to answer. But one thing is certain: the revelations from the German and American media come at a bad time for WADA, less than 100 days before the Paris 2024 Games, the day after the tenth edition of its Play True day. The succession of its communiqués, sent throughout the weekend, make no mistake: WADA has seen better days.

The latest, published Sunday evening in North American time, drives the point home. WADA explains that it “ examined " the  documentary ofARD, an exercise that allows it to “ firmly uphold the results of its scientific investigation and its legal decision regarding the case. » It repeats that hits independent intelligence and investigations department did not find evidence that would have justified going further. And specifies not having had any element “ to challenge the findings of the Chinese Anti-Doping Agency (CHINADA) regarding environmental contamination – a position which was also accepted by World Aquatics."

WADA announces that it will hold an online press conference this Monday, April 22, where it will present itself to the media in good order and in a tight pack, with a cast of speakers including its president Witold Bańka, its general director Olivier Niggli, its director of the scientific and medical department Olivier Rabin, and its director of intelligence and investigations Günter Younger.

Coincidence of the calendar: the affair comes as the best Chinese swimmers have been competing in the Olympic trials in Shenzhen since Friday April 19. In such a context, their performances will be viewed with distrust and suspicion.