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HomeWorldMichael Phelps says US athletes losing faith in Wada before Paris Olympics

Michael Phelps says US athletes losing faith in Wada before Paris Olympics

American Olympic athletes have lost confidence in the World Anti-Doping Agency to rid their sport of cheaters before next month’s Summer Games in Paris, two former gold medalists told a House of Representatives subcommittee on Tuesday evening.

The testimony from Michael Phelps and Allison Schmitt followed revelations this spring that 23 Chinese swimmers tested positive for a banned heart drug before the 2021 Tokyo Olympics but were allowed to compete by Wada. Five of those swimmers won medals, including three gold.

Phelps is the most decorated swimmer in history and a 23-time Olympic gold medalist. Schmitt, a four-time gold medalist, was part of the U.S. 800-meter freestyle relay team that finished second behind China at the Tokyo Games. Both the Chinese and American teams broke the previous world record in the relay.

“We raced hard. We trained hard. We followed every protocol. We accepted our defeat with grace,” Schmitt said. “Many of us will be haunted by this podium finish, which may have been influenced by doping.”

Eleven of the Chinese swimmers who tested positive before Tokyo will compete again in Paris.

Phelps nodded in agreement several times as members of Congress criticized Wada, saying Americans should be able to watch the Olympics without wondering whether the competition was rigged.

“As athletes, we can no longer blindly rely on the World Anti-Doping Agency, an organization that continues to prove itself unable or unwilling to consistently enforce its policies around the world,” Phelps said.

Phelps expressed frustration that nothing had changed since he testified before the same subcommittee seven years ago about Wada’s handling of Russian state-sponsored doping.

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“Sitting here once again, it is clear to me that all attempts at reform at Wada have fallen short, and that there are still deep-seated, systemic problems that prove detrimental to the integrity of international sport and the rights of athletes on fair competition, time and safety. It’s that time again,” Phelps said. “Honestly, if we let this slide any further, the Olympics might not even happen.”

The world doping regulator accepted Chinese anti-doping officials’ conclusion that the 23 athletes had ingested the banned substance through contaminated food at a hotel. Independent anti-doping experts have questioned this finding, with US Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart calling it “outrageous.”

“The banned drug, which is only available in pill form, somehow ended up in the kitchen of a hotel where the swimmers were staying,” said Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Washington representative, adding that Wada “on one somehow concluded that this explanation was plausible. ”

Wada said Covid-19 pandemic restrictions in China prevented an “on-site investigation” of the positive tests and concluded this could not refute the Chinese authorities’ statement.

Wada President Witold Bańka was invited to testify on Tuesday, but declined.

“Unfortunately, there continues to be a narrative from some in the US that suggests Wada somehow acted inappropriately or showed bias against China, despite there being no evidence to support that theory,” Banka said in a statement . “Wada understands the tense relationship that exists between the governments of China and the US and has no mandate to be part of it. It is not appropriate for anti-doping to be politicized in this way.”

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In response to criticism, Wada appointed an independent investigator, Swiss prosecutor Eric Cottier, to review China’s handling of the case. Cottier was appointed on April 25 and was expected to announce his findings within two months. His appointment also angered critics, who said his appointment indicated a conflict of interest.

The U.S. contributes more money to Wada than any other country, including nearly $3.7 million this year. China has given Wada $1.8 million more than it requires since 2018, Tygart noted in his testimony.

Tygart called on the U.S. to make future funding for Wada conditional on reforms at the agency, an idea that Republican and Democratic lawmakers said they support.

“I think the threat of that, if the funding isn’t actually suspended for a period of time, will go a long way toward getting the truth out,” Tygart said. “We need to ensure that our money goes to a good cause, but at the moment that is absolutely not the case.”

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