Published: 11:10, May 18, 2024
WADA gains support from Foundation Board on Chinese swimming case
By Xinhua
This file photo dated Nov 11, 2021 shows the offices of the World Anti-Doping Agency in Montreal. (PHOTO / AFP)

MONTREAL, Canada - The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) President, Witold Banka, said Friday the agency received the backing of its highest decision-making body, the Foundation Board (Board), on the Chinese swimming case.

In an extraordinary meeting of its Board to discuss the contamination case involving swimmers from China, WADA received broad support from stakeholders.

"Today WADA received the backing of its Foundation Board, which came from members of all stakeholder groups, including from athletes, the Sport Movement, Governments and National Anti-Doping Organizations," Banka said.

During the Board meeting, WADA gave members a full outline of the work it has carried out on the case from the moment it became aware of the positive tests in 2021 to date, from every perspective including as it relates to science, legal affairs, and intelligence and investigations.

During the Board meeting, WADA gave members a full outline of the work it has carried out on the case from the moment it became aware of the positive tests in 2021 to date, from every perspective including as it relates to science, legal affairs, and intelligence and investigations

WADA has now referred the matter to an independent prosecutor, Eric Cottier, who will conduct a review with the intention of issuing a report by the end of June.

Banka said the independent prosecutor has now started his review who will have full access to all WADA's files and any information in its possession.

"He is also free to choose any other independent expert to assist him in reaching his conclusions, as he deems necessary," Banka said. "WADA will be ready to consider any recommendations he may have in that regard."

"In fact, as we are currently carrying out a stakeholder consultation update of the World Anti-Doping Code and International Standards, the timing is perfect to consider any recommendations as to how the global anti-doping system can be strengthened further," said Banka.

WADA Vice-President Yang Yang said she had every faith in the prosecutor's ability to produce a fair and unbiased report based on the facts and evidence.

"We should now await to see what his findings will be," she said.

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In this file photo dated Nov 7, 2019, China's former short-track speed-skater Yang Yang speaks after being elected as vice-president of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in Katowice, Poland. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

WADA Athlete Council representative on the Board, Patrick O'Leary, said: "It is very important that the athletes' voices are not lost in this story and that we continue to be part of the conversation."

"We welcome WADA's move to invite an independent prosecutor to conduct a thorough review of its handling of the matter. It is important that we reserve judgement and give him the space he needs to conduct that independent process in advance of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris."

WADA's Founding President, Dick Pound launched a fierce attack on the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) during the meeting.

It is extremely unfair for those athletes who are preparing the biggest moments of their careers, not only those athletes whose identities were wrongly publicized, including some minors, but also the athletes who were misled by false information from a group of people with ulterior motives and therefore would lose confidence in clean sports.

Yang Yang, WADA Vice-President

"I am deeply disappointed and disgusted by the deliberate lies and distortions coming from the USADA, including that WADA has swept doping cases in China under the rug," said Pound. "That accusation, bereft of any truth, has but a single purpose: to deliberately damage the reputation of WADA and to lessen the worldwide trust that has been built up since WADA was created a quarter of a century ago to head up the international fight against doping in sport."

"What is missing in USADA's conduct is a willingness to work for solutions, just endless and biased criticism," he said.

Yang also expressed her anger at how this story has been portrayed in the media related to her Chinese nationality.

"It is not right. It is not true. It is disgraceful that my integrity would be questioned without any evidence," she said. "As a former athlete who has involved in sport organizations voluntarily for more than 20 years, I strongly believe sports can unite people and create hope and opportunities. Unfortunately, some are trying to divide the world of sport around this issue."

"It is extremely unfair for those athletes who are preparing the biggest moments of their careers, not only those athletes whose identities were wrongly publicized, including some minors, but also the athletes who were misled by false information from a group of people with ulterior motives and therefore would lose confidence in clean sports."

"It is completely unacceptable to manipulate athletes for one's own ego and political agenda. That is why we must enable people to see the truth and safeguard the confidence of athletes in clean sports," she added.

World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) President Witold Banka delivers a speech at the opening of the two-day annual WADA symposium in Lausanne, on March 12, 2024. (PHOTO / AFP)

WADA confirmed that the related Chinese athletes provided approximately 1,700 doping control samples between 2018 and 2022, with certain athletes having been tested dozens of times per year, whether by swimming's International Federation (now known as World Aquatics) or the Chinese Anti-Doping Agency.

In almost four months from April 1, 2021 until the start of the Tokyo Olympic Games in July 2021, close to 300 samples were collected from the athletes, which equates on average to several samples per month, per athlete, WADA said.

READ MORE: China Anti-Doping Agency ready to cooperate with WADA in regular compliance review

WADA, established in 1999 as an international independent agency to lead a collaborative worldwide movement for doping-free sport, is composed of a 42-member Foundation Board and a 16-member Executive Committee, to which the Foundation Board delegates the management and running of the agency.