Trimetazidine in Chinese swimming "mass-contamination event" and WADA's role in an alleged cover-up

Sylvia

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AP article - WADA stands by decision to clear Chinese swimmers for Tokyo Olympics, citing contaminated samples (April 22):
The case underscores what many view as a flaw in the global anti-doping system — that a country’s own anti-doping organization is often the first line of defense in catching drug cheats and those organizations have different levels of motivation to fulfil that role.
WADA will hold a press conference in 3 hours: https://www.wada-ama.org/en/news/wa...g-ard-documentary-concerning-chinese-swimming

ETA link to Christine Brennan's first column on this topic (April 22):
One key question has emerged: Did WADA share with the Valieva defense team the information that in a similar situation (the 23 Chinese swimmers), WADA kept the positive drug tests secret from the public and did not suspend or disqualify the swimmers?
So far no one in a position of authority has been willing to answer that question.
 
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marbri

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I´m just sad right now. I was so looking forward to the swimming this summer and some of the races I am particularly pumped about have a potential Chinese spoiler in the mix. Going to be really hard to watch them now :(

I follow Kyle Sockwell on social media and he wrote "this is one of those super fun situations where literally no one wins (except maybe the media)" and I can't agree more right now.

There are some really talented swimmers right now with some very exciting showdowns expected that I just hope they are all able to concentrate and keep their focus as they are all about to go into their respective Olympic trials (and Paris as well).

I kind of wish we, and they, didn't know about this simply because I don't think anything will be done about it at this stage. What even can be done? It's only hurting the sport and the clean athletes who have been working so hard and building towards Paris :(
 

Sylvia

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Press conference recap thread: https://twitter.com/Swazz3r/status/1782441581771182229

I will post the link to WADA's presser video when it's up.

Sports journalist Alan Abrahamson (https://annenberg.usc.edu/faculty/alan-abrahamson): https://twitter.com/alanabrahamson/status/1782434665317749070
This @wada_ama news conference is fascinating. Turns out 'certain athletes that participated in this event were staying at different hotels.' Plural. Different hotels. The first NYT story mentions word 'hotel' four times. Only the one hotel, Huayang Holiday Hotel in Shijiazhuang. Wouldn't that have been maybe relevant/material?
3 more posts by Abrahamson:
@wada_ama lawyer Wenzel: comments suggesting 'a coverup of doping cases for political reasons couldn’t be further from the truth' Adds @wada_ama president Banka: 'It’s obvious that most of the comments are politically motivated and without any evidence'
Obvious question but to get there some doping acronyms to understand. An 'AAF' is a positive test. 'ADAMS' is the WADA data management system. The question: if China wanted to dope its swimmers and cover it up, why would it put the AAFs into ADAMS?
Another q about Chinese swim matter. If @wada_ama was in business of covering up for elite Chinese swimmers, why did it engage in such protracted prosecution of Sun Yang case? Which, after multiple twists and turns, finally ended in summer 2021 ...
Tariq Panja (co-author of the NYT article): https://twitter.com/tariqpanja/status/1782453892552302863
So we've just had a long media call with WADA, lasting which involved its head of legal, investigations and science. Left wondering how the Chinese intelligence services, deputised to investigate 23 doping positives, could not find the source of the supposed contamination.
This would be the equivalent of the FBI or MI5 in the UK being asked to conduct a no expense investigation and coming up with everything to clear US or UK athletes but failing to find the person whose prescription heart medication accidentally contaminated them
 
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Sylvia

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AP article by Eddie Pells (with Graham Dunbar) - Chinese generosity in lead-up to cleared doping tests reflects its growing influence on WADA (April 22):
The Associated Press obtained confidential minutes from meetings of the WADA executive committee that lists China as having given $993,000 in 2018 and $992,000 in 2019, two years that led to one of its Olympians being elected as one of the agency’s vice presidents.
The Chinese contributions were part of a pattern that illustrates the country’s growing influence on the drug-fighting agency at about the same time WADA’s relationship with its biggest contributor, the United States, was fraying.
There is no indication from the documents AP reviewed that China donated the money in expectation of a quid pro quo to gloss over positive drug tests. In fact, WADA didn’t hide the extra funding; it put out a little-noticed news release in December 2020 announcing China’s $992,000 donation.
“All this was done in total transparency,” WADA director general Olivier Niggli said Monday during a news conference to discuss the case. “And frankly, the (question) has absolutely nothing to do with what we are discussing today. So, the optics is a question (I appreciate), but I have absolutely no problem with the relationship we have with China.”
WADA used its news conference to defend and explain its process, saying in essence there was no effective way to win a case based on countering China’s claims that the swimmers had been subject to contamination.
“In the absence of any evidence of any sort of misconduct ... I’m very confident we would have had close to a 0% chance in establishing” a case that the swimmers intentionally cheated, WADA general counsel Ross Wenzel explained.
Of the 23 Chinese swimmers who tested positive, 13 competed in Tokyo and four of those 13 won medals. Many of the athletes still compete for China and are expected to swim at this year’s Paris Olympics.
 

Sylvia

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WADA's April 22nd press conference video (1 hour 42 mins; unlisted link which is why I couldn't find it on WADA's YT channel yesterday): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDZ6pM_Qbb0

NYT article yesterday: https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/22/world/asia/doping-china-swimmers-olympics.html
The official, Rahul Gupta, who is the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said that he planned to bring up the handling of the positive tests during a two-day meeting of sports ministers in Washington. Top members of the World Anti-Doping Agency are scheduled to attend the event, which starts Thursday. [...]
Dr. Gupta is a member of the WADA executive committee, but he and his staff had not been briefed about the case involving the swimmers until Friday, according to a statement from his office. The next day, an investigation in The Times revealed the swimmers’ positive tests for a banned heart drug, trimetazidine, or TMZ, and the response to them by national and global antidoping officials.
U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's response - Call for Independent Prosecutor and Overhaul of WADA (April 23):

2nd half copied out below:

MORE DETAILED REACTION TO REVELATION THAT CHINA COVERED UP POSITIVE TESTS AND WADA’S ACCEPTANCE OF IT

We learned yesterday in the WADA press conference that numerous failures occurred that led to the covering up of positive tests for the last three years, including the failure to follow the rules. These are addressed below:

Investigations

WADA Intelligence and Investigations department acknowledged that they did not open an investigation into the 23 positive tests but just processed information in its system.
  • WADA did not do any factual investigation into the circumstances of the hotel.
  • China did not determine the source of the TMZ, and WADA apparently did not raise the obvious questions: How did a controlled drug, TMZ, arrive in the kitchen? Did any kitchen staff have a prescription or use TMZ? Did an employee crush TMZ pills while in the kitchen? Was CCTV reviewed to determine who had access to the kitchen? Certainly, the Chinese Security Service could have interviewed the hotel staff to attempt to learn who might have been using TMZ.
  • WADA also appears unconcerned by the fact that TMZ was discovered at a hotel in China by the Chinese State Security over three and a half months after the athletes who tested positive were in the hotel. Does WADA believe that the hotel was not cleaned despite these three months spanning the height of the Covid epidemic when restaurants and public places were almost certainly required to perform extensive daily and nightly cleaning?
  • WADA did not advise other athletes in China or the world of the risk of testing positive from TMZ in contaminated kitchens. If they do not know the source but nevertheless believed the story presented by the Chinese Security Service, WADA should have warned athletes and anti-doping organizations around the world. Was this possibility presented to the Valieva arbitrators in the prosecution of that TMZ case?
  • According to the New York Times, all athletes, aside from one team, stayed in the same hotel.
  • The fact that all the positives came from athletes who stayed at the hotel, when almost all the athletes stayed at the same hotel, does not prove or disprove contamination.
  • As we know from the Lance Armstrong and U.S. Postal Service cases, athletes who dope together also travel and stay at the same hotels together.
The Tips
  • USADA gave WADA contact information of a whistleblower in September 2020, who wished to remain anonymous, which is not unusual for high-profile cases where safety and security are a concern. USADA also referred the whistleblower to WADA.
  • The tip included names of swimmers who we now know were part of the 23 that tested positive.
  • The tip alleged there were gaps in the testing of these swimmers, allowing the athletes to avoid positive tests. WADA has complete access to testing histories of athletes, and the gap in testing (brought to light to the public for the first time in the ARD documentary), coupled with the 23 positive tests, should have been more than enough evidence to open an investigation.
  • WADA acknowledged also having a tip about Chinese swimming doping from the International Testing Agency. We do not know the details of this tip, but given WADA’s description of the information we passed to it, this should be immediately retrieved and compared to the tips USADA provided to WADA.
  • At no time did WADA inform USADA they were sitting on 23 positive tests.
Science

Oscillating Positive and Negative Samples
  • Samples collected at different times of the day or on different days may oscillate between positive, negative, and another positive at the tail end of excretion from the body when the concentration of the substance is low in the urine and near the laboratory limit of detection.
  • Just because you have a negative one day and then a positive the next day, it does not mean that you were exposed to the drug after the negative test.
  • As WADA’s science director acknowledged, the positive samples were in the picogram range.
  • This “pulsing” effect is caused by a variety of factors, including the specific gravity of a urine sample (how dilute the sample is), which is influenced by athlete hydration. These various factors all play an important role in whether a substance is detected or not detected at any given point in time.
  • This can happen regardless of whether the substance originally entered the body due to intentional doping or through a contamination scenario.
Performance Enhancement
  • TMZ is a non-specified substance, and it is designated as such because of its likelihood of being used as an intentional doping agent.
  • TMZ is tested for at all times, not just during a competition, because it has lasting effects even after it is no longer detected in your urine.
  • Having a low concentration in an in-competition sample does not undercut the athlete having received a performance benefit during training in the lead-up to competition based on earlier intentional use.
  • A low concentration in samples, even collected over three consecutive days of competition, cannot tell you whether it was the tail end of excretion from intentional use or from contamination.
  • At least some of the samples in this situation were in similar ranges to the positive TMZ sample from Russian figure skater, Kamila Valieva. In that case, WADA appealed, and a four-year sanction was imposed.
Legal

Rules Not Followed
  • WADA’s own rules require that a violation be found in contamination cases, that in-competition results be disqualified, that a provisional suspension be imposed at the outset, and that the violation be publicly announced.
  • Under the rules, these 23 athletes committed an anti-doping rule violation even if they were not at fault. CHINADA, nor any other anti-doping organization, has the discretionary power to find no violation based on contamination.
  • CHINADA did not follow the rules.
  • WADA failed to appeal CHINADA’s decision to correct the clear and obvious errors, AND they did not initiate a compliance action against CHINADA for its disregard of the rules.
  • WADA’s statements at the press conference about 10 cases on U.S. soil for which there was no violation and no public disclosure, is concerning. These 10 cases were not USADA’s, and we had no involvement with them, if they in fact happened in the U.S. This is a disturbing claim, as these cases must be International Federation cases with which USADA has no involvement. But it suggests WADA’s decision to allow China to sweep the 23 cases under the rug without consequence is apparently just the tip of the iceberg. So, how many more cases have been treated the same in violation of the rules?
  • By not following its own rules in this case, WADA has shown that different rules apply for different countries or circumstances despite the fact the rules afford WADA no such discretion. The lack of transparency makes this double standard all the more unsavory and intolerable as it undermines any remaining trust athletes have in the current global regulator structure and leadership.
 
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Sylvia

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WADA launches ‘independent’ review of Chinese doping, USADA calls out ‘whitewash’ by Henry Bushnell of Yahoo! Sports (April 25):

Hajo Seppelt posted this today: https://twitter.com/hajoseppelt/status/1783919372358082906
Must read: All key questions about WADA‘s handling of the China affair: 34 crucial questions by @NickJMButler and me which @wada_ama did not answer at all or insufficiently - or are still open. We have put together all questions about facts, plausibility, responsibility >>>
Nick Butler's X thread: https://twitter.com/NickJMButler/status/1783912444504510500
 
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barbk

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USADA's response after the announcement of the "independent" prosecutor. https://www.usada.org/announcement/call-for-independent-prosecutor-wada/

The last two bullet points on the page are particularly interesting:
  • WADA’s statements at the press conference about 10 cases on U.S. soil for which there was no violation and no public disclosure, is concerning. These 10 cases were not USADA’s, and we had no involvement with them, if they in fact happened in the U.S. This is a disturbing claim, as these cases must be International Federation cases with which USADA has no involvement. But it suggests WADA’s decision to allow China to sweep the 23 cases under the rug without consequence is apparently just the tip of the iceberg. So, how many more cases have been treated the same in violation of the rules?
  • By not following its own rules in this case, WADA has shown that different rules apply for different countries or circumstances despite the fact the rules afford WADA no such discretion. The lack of transparency makes this double standard all the more unsavory and intolerable as it undermines any remaining trust athletes have in the current global regulator structure and leadership.
 

Sylvia

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^^^ The link posted above was from April 23 (post #28).
USADA's response after the announcement of the "independent" prosecutor.
THIS is USADA's response (April 25):

April 27:
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach says he has "full confidence" in the World Anti-Doping Agency after 23 Chinese swimmers were cleared to compete at the Tokyo Olympics despite testing positive for a banned substance.
The swimmers tested positive for heart medication trimetazidine (TMZ) at a training camp seven months before the 2020 Games.
Wada said it was "not in a position to disprove" an assertion from the China Anti-Doping Agency (Chinada) that they had unintentionally ingested the substance.
Wada has begun an independent review into its handling of the case.
Bach said he and the IOC had "full confidence in Wada and that Wada have followed their regulations".
He said that if the swimmers were cleared, they would be free to compete at this summer's Olympics in Paris.
"If the procedures are followed, there is no reason for them not to be there," he told news agency AFP.
On Friday Chinada said it would "actively co-operate" with Wada's audit.
 

Sylvia

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Matt Lawton posted an excerpt from his article in The Sunday Times (May 5): https://twitter.com/Lawton_Times/status/1787038833030078587
World Aquatics appoints a special committee to review Chinese swimming scandal, but don’t call on the expertise of someone like Bill Bock, the former @usantidoping lawyer who has all the relevant experience. Funny that.
May 4:
In a letter sent to member federations - and seen by the BBC - world swimming’s governing body said: “The goal is to enhance our understanding of the anti-doping review and decision-making process within our federation as it concerned this particular case and take away any learnings from this experience to make World Aquatics more equipped for the future.
“Your confidence, and the confidence of all athletes in our system is vital to our future together.”
Miguel Cardenal, Ken Lalo, Annabelle Williams, Florent Manaudou and Fernando Possenti have been appointed to the committee.
It is expected the review and report will be completed by next month.
 

Sylvia

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Another NYT article by Michael S. Schmidt and Tariq Panja (June 14, 2024) - thanks to @sk9tingfan for the gifted link:
Certain Chinese swimmers tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in 2016 and 2017, affecting 12 other athletes in water polo and 13 in other sports, yet no action has ever been taken. Trace amounts of the drug clenbuterol has been tied to some cases due to its weight loss and muscle growth potential. The Chinese explanation for some cases has been linked with meat contamination in meals unknowingly served to athletes. Use of Trimetazidine also was found as it improves stamina and endurance with faster recovery times.
Excerpt:
After the revelation in April that 23 elite Chinese swimmers had tested positive for a banned substance months before the last Summer Olympic Games, China and the global antidoping authority vigorously defended their decisions to allow them to compete in the Games in 2021. The swimmers, they insisted, had not been doping.
But as they made those claims, China and the antidoping authority were both aware that three of those 23 swimmers had tested positive several years earlier for a different performance-enhancing drug and had escaped being publicly identified and suspended in that case as well, according to a secret report reviewed by The New York Times. [...]
The three Chinese athletes revealed to have tested positive earlier, in 2016 and 2017, were no ordinary swimmers: Two would go on to win gold medals at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021, and the third is now a world-record holder. All three are expected to contend for medals again at the Paris Games in July.
WADA's response (June 13):

ETA:

Tariq Panja posted this on X earlier today ("Have been working in sports media for about 23 years, and for the first time, an organization has published a front running statement as a spoiler."): https://x.com/tariqpanja/status/1801686737011544530

Michael Schmidt on X: "NEW: More questions about positive tests by Chinese swimmers. 3 of 23 swimmers who tested positive before the '21 Olympics (where 2 won gold) also tested positive in '16 and '17 and were not disciplined for those positives either." https://x.com/nytmike/status/1801682886866722927
 
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