Doping in China | Future Olympic champions tested positive in 2021 and not sanctioned

(Munich) An investigation carried out by German public television ARD and the New York Times claims that 23 Chinese athletes, including several future Olympic champions in Tokyo, tested positive at the start of 2021, without having been sanctioned.

According to the “Doping Editorial Team” of the ARD, which had already revealed the Russian doping scandal at the end of 2014, and the American daily, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the International Swimming Federation (FINA, now World Aquatics) accepted the Chinese authorities’ explanation of contamination.

The broadcast date of the ARD documentary is not yet known.

The Chinese anti-doping authority, Chinada, was not immediately available for comment.

During a competition held in Shijiazhuang (China) in early 2021, 23 of the best Chinese swimmers tested positive for trimetazidine, a substance banned since 2014 on the grounds that it improves blood circulation.

This same substance was found in analyzes carried out at the end of 2021 on Russian skater Kamila Valieva, a positive test revealed during the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022 and which resulted in her suspension for 4 years from December 25, 2021 .

Of the 23 Chinese people who tested positive at the start of 2021, 13 participated in the Olympic Games a few weeks later, including Zhang Yufei, quadruple medalist in Tokyo: gold in the 200m butterfly and 4x200m freestyle, silver in the 100m butterfly and relay mixed 4×100 m medley.

Wang Shun, Olympic champion in Tokyo in the 200m medley, is also one of the Chinese swimmers tested positive at the start of 2021, as well as Yang Junxuan, silver medalist with Zhang Yufei in the mixed relay.


Wang Shun won gold in the 200m medley.

“Stab in the back”

An investigation was carried out by the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, then a report was written by Chinada and submitted in March 2021. No provisional suspension was issued between the positive tests and the submission of the report.

The AMA indicated to the ARD that on the basis of the analysis of the data submitted by the Chinese, it had seen “no basis” allowing “to contest the explanation of the contamination”, in particular because of the weak concentrations. Chinada explained that there was no anti-doping rule violation and for FINA, the facts were verified immediately and professionally.

Questioned by the ARD, the head of the American anti-doping agency (USADA) Travis Tygart considers that these are “shocking revelations”, and a “stab in the back of all clean athletes”. According to him, the affair smacks of “make-up at the highest level of the AMA”.

“It was obvious that there was an anti-doping rule violation and it should have been handled that way by the Chinese Anti-Doping Agency,” said sports lawyer Thomas Summerer.

For forensic toxiologist and pharmacist Fritz Sörgel, interviewed by the ARD, it is “extremely unlikely” that the events happened as they appear in the Chinese investigation report.

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