Friday, May 24, 2024

The Chinese swimming scandal explained

Must read

Why were swimmers able to compete?

CHINADA launched an investigation. China’s Ministry of Public Security was reportedly called in. WADA was informed. CHINADA’s version of events was that a mass contamination occurred in “sink drains, spice containers and cooktop vents in the kitchen of the Huayang Holiday Hotel in Shijiazhuang” during a team camp. WADA was unable to independently verify this physical evidence because of COVID-19 lockdowns at the time. After receiving external scientific advice, WADA concluded it was not in a position to “disprove the possibility that contamination was the source of TMZ”. WADA concluded that no athletes were at fault and there was no negligence. WADA did not appeal the decision and account given by CHINADA.

What is TMZ and what does it do?

Trimetazidine (TMZ) is a prescription drug that can enhance performance. It can be given to people with heart disease. However, there are stamina and endurance benefits that come with it, as well as improved recovery.

It is only available in a pill form, meaning that it cannot be sprinkled.

Why didn’t WADA stand down athletes during an investigation?

WADA believed there was no basis to “challenge the asserted contamination”. Only in rare occurrences are athletes not stood down while an investigation takes place.

Meanwhile, in a separate case, Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva tested positive for TMZ in 2022. Russia’s anti-doping agency, who investigated, gave the same reason as China did in this instance; that the sample was contaminated. Unlike the Chinese situation, WADA appealed Russia’s explanation to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Valieva received a four-year suspension and missed the 2022 Winter Olympics. There is a suggestion that WADA acted differently on this occasion.

How did China go at the Olympics?

China won six medals in the pool in Tokyo, including three gold medals. Australia had its most successful Olympic campaign in the pool with nine gold medals.

Were Australians in races in Tokyo with Chinese swimmers who tested positive?

Yes. In the women’s 4x200m freestyle relay, China picked up a gold medal with Australia in third place.

Ariarne Titmus, Emma McKeon, Madi Wilson and Leah Neale represented Australia in the final.

In the mixed 4x100m medley relay, Australia (third place) finished behind China (second). Kaylee McKeown, Zac Stubblety-Cook, Matt Temple and Emma McKeon were on that team.

In the women’s 100m butterfly final, McKeon claimed a bronze medal behind China’s Zhang Yufei in second place.

Will China lose their medals?

Not at this stage. Although the International Olympic Committee is to yet to provide a statement on the issue – they have been contacted for comment – WADA and World Aquatics, formerly known as FINA, have said they are comfortable with their enquiries and investigations.

No Chinese swimmer tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance at the Tokyo Olympics. There have been no positive tests since, including at the 2023 world championships last year when Australia’s swimmers competed against their Chinese rivals. The only way medals could be redistributed is if WADA re-opened an independent investigation.

Australia’s women’s 4x200m freestyle relay team won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics behind China, who broke the world record.Credit: Getty

Is a fresh investigation possible?

Given the time that has elapsed, it would seem unlikely. WADA released another statement on Monday, Australian time, saying it believes all the correct processes were followed. WADA has called a news conference for Monday (Tuesday morning Australian time).

“The Agency still stands firmly by the results of its scientific investigation and legal decision concerning the case,” read the statement. “Based on all available scientific evidence and intelligence, which was gathered, assessed and tested by experts in the pharmacology of trimetazidine (TMZ); and, by anti-doping experts, the Agency had no basis under the World Anti-Doping Code to challenge the China Anti-Doping Agency’s (CHINADA’s) findings of environmental contamination – a position that was also accepted by World Aquatics.”

Will those same Chinese swimmers be at this year’s Olympics in Paris?

Yes. China’s Olympic swimming trials are on at the moment. The likes of Zhang Yufei, Wang Shun and Qin Haiyang, who all had traces of TMZ in test samples before the Olympics, are likely to make the team. Their inclusion at the Olympics will ignite fierce debate, even though WADA is comfortable that a proper process was carried out.

How do Australia’s swimmers feel about it?

News broke on the final day of the Australian Open Swimming Championships on the Gold Coast on Saturday. Swimmers were surprised by the revelations and a number have spoken out.

Loading

Former swimmer Mack Horton was strong on the issue, given he has championed clean sport throughout his career.

The country’s top swimmers will no doubt get asked about the saga at Australia’s Olympic trials in June and then by the world’s media again in Paris in July. Many don’t want to let it become a distraction.

Sports news, results and expert commentary. Sign up for our Sport newsletter.

Latest article