Doping-WADA hits back after new report on Chinese swimmers

FILE PHOTO: World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Director General Olivier Niggli attends the World Anti-Doping Agency Symposium in Lausanne, Switzerland, June 11, 2022. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

(Reuters) - The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) defended its dismissal of positive tests for a banned substance among three Chinese swimmers in 2016 and 2017, after a prior report showed 23 other swimmers from the country had avoided punishment in a separate case.

WADA said in April it would launch an independent review after the New York Times reported that 23 Chinese swimmers tested positive for a banned substance before the Tokyo Games but were allowed to compete.

The latest report from the New York Times on Friday said three of those 23 had also tested positive for another banned substance, clenbuterol, in 2016 and 2017, and that two went on to win Olympic gold in Tokyo.

WADA responded on Friday, saying the three athletes in question were found to have "levels of clenbuterol so low that they were between six and 50 times lower than the minimum reporting level" that is in place today.

It attributed the positive tests to contaminated meat.

"They were elite level swimmers who were tested on a very frequent basis in a country where meat contamination with clenbuterol is widespread," WADA Director General Olivier Niggli said in a statement.

"It is hardly surprising that they could be among the hundreds of athletes who also tested positive for tiny amounts of the substance."

The report threatened to further inflame a public spat between WADA and U.S. anti-doping authorities, with the United States Olympic swimming trials set to start in Indianapolis on Saturday.

American seven-times Olympic gold medallist Katie Ledecky previously said that her confidence in the anti-doping system was at an all-time low ahead of the Paris Games starting next month.

(Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York, editing by Ed Osmond)

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