US Senators latest to push for WADA explainer on doping scandal

Like a constant drizzle, criticism and demands for clarification keep pouring over the World Anti-Doping agency s handling of the 23 positive tests from China’s 2021 swimming team. American politicians have now united in their ask for answers from the global watchdog, the Associated Press reports.

While on the other side of the world, it was Russian athlete Serguey Shubenkov who expressed criticism of WADA’s alleged “double standards” that many others have pointed out in the past, on Wednesday a bipartisan group of US senators sent a letter intended to pressure the international agency, in which they demanded further clarification regarding the Chinese matter. Just one day before, representatives from Congress had done the same with Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee.

“It is not just this one incident that causes concern for many athletes, anti-doping agencies, and fans across the world, but it is the fact that WADA has long shown questionable ethical behaviour,” read the letter signed the Senators. The AP’s report detailed that the message was sent to US Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray, and that it also pushed for a briefing on federal investigators’ knowledge of the case.

WADA came under intense scrutiny following revelations back in April that it had been aware of the positive test results but had not taken decisive action to prevent the athletes from participating in the Tokyo 2021 Games. Critics argue that WADA’s failure to enforce its own regulations undermines the credibility of global anti-doping efforts and puts clean athletes at a disadvantage.

The controversy erupted when it was revealed that the 23 swimmers had tested positive for a banned substance, trimetazidine, a prescription heart drug which can enhance performance, in the lead-up to the Olympics. Despite these findings, they were allowed to compete and win medals, raising suspicions of preferential treatment or oversight failures. Many of the same athletes are currently set to compete at the Paris 2024 Summer Games.

“This scandal raises serious legal, ethical, and competitive concerns and may constitute a broader state-sponsored strategy by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to unfairly compete at the Olympic Games,” the senators wrote.

WADA officials who attended the 19th edition of the Asia/Oceania Region Intergovernmental Ministerial Meeting on Anti-Doping in Sport this week in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, were quick to respond to the latest American attack at the meeting’s conclusion on Thursday. In an official statement, the agency underlined the importance of not politicizing the fight against doping in sport.

“WADA is grateful for the support shown and committed today by the Governments, National Anti-Doping Organizations and Regional Anti-Doping Organizations of the Asia and Oceania region,” president Witold Banka said. “Over the past month, we have seen that there are a small number of stakeholders in other parts of the world who prefer to politicize anti-doping and turn it into a power struggle between certain factions or nations. It is critical that we do not discriminate nor cede to those who want to place their organizations above others. When it comes to protecting clean sport, it is crucial that we are equitable. I will not allow WADA to become part of anyone’s political game.”

Back in Russia, Shubenkov insisted that rules are different depending on which part of the world is under WADA’s radar. “In America, they have their own federation, athletes use a completely different application, and not ADAMS (Doping Control System), which is used in the rest of the world. Americans always fail to realise that they are privileged”, the 33-year-old athlete told TASS in an information later published on sports.ru. “As for the growing conflict between WADA and USADA, I look at it as a qualified lawyer. However, I repeat, America is in a privileged position in terms of anti-doping, even in the sports that WADA has the right to control. It’s not up to the Americans to teach the whole world how to fight doping.”

AP also reported back in April that China had significantly increased their yearly donations to WADA’s budget two years before the doping scandal was revealed. Banka insisted in Tashkent that the agency plans to expand its Anti-Doping Intelligence & Investigations Network (ADIIN) to the Asia and Oceania region in the near future.

“WADA has been bringing together anti-doping experts from National Anti-doping organisations and law enforcement agencies in Europe to expand the Anti-Doping Intelligence & Investigations Network. This pilot project has exceeded our most optimistic expectations. The network has already dismantled several illicit steroid laboratories and seized 15 tonnes of performance enhancing drugs. Numerous athletes have also been caught for doping,” the WADA president concluded.

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