Saturday, July 13, 2024

Swimming News: WADA’s Wrong Turn Fires Chinese Doping Controversy as Legendary Coach Joins Michael Phelps and Others in ‘Unfair’ Rant

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The swimming world is on fire at the moment, involving the WADA controversy. Apparently, a total of 23 swimmers from China were allegedly cleared by the WADA despite having TMZ in their system. Quite surprisingly, several of the doubted athletes also went on to win gold medals in the Tokyo Olympics three years back. Things came to light when the New York Times, Daily Telegraph(Australia), and German broadcaster ARD exposed the 23 athletes. 

Following a Chinese report back in September, these 23 athletes were said to have tested positive for banned substances at a competition in Shijiazhuang in 2021. Although WADA denied finding any conclusive evidence for the same, backlashes ensued soon after the news was spilled. Adding to the threads of protest, American former swimmer Rowdy Gaines has hit back at the World Anti-Doping Agency. 

Rowdy Gaines, Michael Phelps, and others question the authenticity of WADA 

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In a recent Instagram post, Rowdy Gaines went all out to question WADA’s authenticity. He stated that athletes who stay clean all year round endure unimaginable sacrifices. Thus, it is of paramount importance for WADA to ensure fairness in the game. He wrote, “A fundamental condition of having fairness in sports is having faith in the anti-doping system. We have to do everything we can to make sure it’s a fair playing field. We owe it to the clean athletes around the world to have their back, and also the fans who love our sport and want to know what they are watching is real.” 

Gaines further asked the governing body to investigate the matter deeply and prevent such mishaps before the Paris Olympics. However, Gaines was not the only one to show dissent towards WADA. Renowned names like Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky, and Allison Schmitt gave their reactions to the matter. 

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Allison Schmitt shared about her sad state of mind after hearing the news. She also accused WADA of tampering with the purity of the sports in exchange for “money and politics.” Aligning with her statement, 23x Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps shared Schmitt’s story, citing his support. Likewise, Katie Ledecky also joined the bandwagon, sharing a story by USA Swimming stressing the hard work done by the US swimmers to keep themselves well-conditioned and away from doping. 

Athletes, governments, and governing bodies join hands in the anti-doping battle

Other prominent faces who took a dig at WADA include Annie Lazor, James Guy, Adam Peaty, and Paige Madden. They have all expressed their concerns about the alleged cover-up. Noticeable among these athletes was Lazor, who particularly had significantly strong words for the World Anti-doping Agency. Lazor stated in her Instagram story,Shame on you @wada_ama. You’ve stripped clean athletes of their moment on the podium. Your window of opportunity to do right is gone. No delayed punishment replaces this.”

The waters have run so much deeper that the Australian government has gotten involved in the matter. In a recently issued statement, the government of Australia expressed its full support towards the anti-doping crusade to ensure fair play at the Paris Olympics. Similarly, the national governing body for water sports in Great Britain, Aquatics GB, extended its support towards clean athletes. Aquatics GB stated, Aquatics GB believes that every athlete is entitled to compete on a level playing field — and that means a commitment to clean sport.” 

Well, amidst the raging controversies, USADA and WADA are currently at war. While the USADA is throwing hard punches, WADA has come up with justifications of its own. 

USADA lambasts WADA 

It was USADA who initially drew the first blood on the existing controversy. In a recently released statement, USADA has demanded a complete overhaul of WADA. They stated that this was utterly necessary for reinstating the faith of the athletes in the anti-doping system ahead of the upcoming Paris Olympics. The presser issued by the USADA on Tuesday said,Athletes and the public desperately need and deserve confidence in the global anti-doping system headed into these [Paris] Games.” They also asked to set up an independent and neutral investigating body to go deep into the case of the 23 Chinese athletes. 

Accusing WADA of a cover-up, the CEO, Travis Tygart, felt that WADA swept the actual results under the carpet by failing to fairly and evenly follow the global rules that apply to everyone else in the world.”  The USADA also went to the extent of saying that such a letdown is equivalent to stabbing clean athletes in their back. Tygart believes that time is still there for a detailed analysis of the case. He stated that the swimmers might still have a chance of getting justice by following the correct procedures to obtain the same. 

Raising doubts about the integrity of the doping tests conducted for Paris. Tygart advocated for more strict measures. According to him, “The effort to achieve whatever justice possible at this time must happen before the 2024 Paris Games, as it is unfair for all athletes competing in these Games to possibly compete against those who tested positive and whose results were kept secret until now.” However, amidst all the backlashes, WADA has also conducted a press meeting recently to clarify its stance on the matter. 

WADA clarifies its stance with justification of its own

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WADA made it clear that the reports suggested that the athletes ingested the banned substances through contaminated food. While the Chinese anti-doping agency carried out a thorough investigation, the results were inconclusive for WADA to charge the athletes. 

President Witold Banka stated that the organization did not miss a trick in evaluating the case. He stood by his decisions and stressed that WADA would repeat its judgment if given a second opportunity. Banka said, “In this particular case we followed the process and we don’t see room for improvement when it comes to this particular process what we decided.” 

Olivier Rabin, the senior director of science and medicine at WADA stated, “Ultimately, we concluded that there was no concrete basis to challenge the asserted contamination.” WADA further emphasized on Monday that external inputs opined that the case would have no merit in the Court of Arbitration. 

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Speaking to Reuters, representatives of WADA said, “WADA was advised by external counsel that it would lose any appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport based on such a challenge.” Justifying their actions further, WADA cited the example of World Aquatics. 

The international governing body for swimming, too, studied the case thoroughly and reached an identical conclusion like WADA. Thus, it is evident that tensions are rising between USADA and WADA with the passing of each day. Now, it will be interesting to see how the entire debacle concludes. 

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