Chinese swimmers allowed to compete at Tokyo Olympics despite positive doping tests

Chinese anti-doping authorities found that the results of the tests were Adverse Analytical Findings (AAF) but cleared the swimmers without any penalties which were flagged as positive as a result of contamination.

Published : Apr 20, 2024 11:26 IST , SYDNEY - 2 MINS READ

China’s Li Bingjie, Yang Junxuan, Tang Muhan and Zhang Yufei pose with their gold medals during the Tokyo Olympics
China’s Li Bingjie, Yang Junxuan, Tang Muhan and Zhang Yufei pose with their gold medals during the Tokyo Olympics | Photo Credit: AFP

China’s Li Bingjie, Yang Junxuan, Tang Muhan and Zhang Yufei pose with their gold medals during the Tokyo Olympics | Photo Credit: AFP

The world’s top anti-doping regulator says 23 Chinese swimmers were cleared to compete at the Tokyo Olympics despite testing positive for a banned heart medication because it agreed with Chinese authorities and ruled that their samples had been contaminated.

The World Anti-Doping Agency said on Saturday that the swimmers tested positive for the heart medication trimetazidine in the months leading up to the start of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 but that Chinese authorities told the agency the positives were the result of contamination.

“Ultimately, we concluded that there was no concrete basis to challenge the asserted contamination,” WADA’s senior director of science and medicine Olivier Rabin said in a news release.

The 30-member Chinese swim team won six medals in Tokyo, including three golds. Many of the athletes still compete for China and are expected to swim at the Paris Olympics this summer.

Reports about the doping positives came out on Saturday in the Daily Telegraph in Sydney and The New York Times.

WADA responded to what it called “some misleading and potentially defamatory media coverage this week” and explained the process it undertook upon learning about the positive tests.

ALSO READ:Titmus fires Olympic warning with fastest 400m freestyle of year

The global drug-fighting organization said it also had been given a tip by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency as early as 2020 — before this case arose — about allegations of doping cover-ups in China but that USADA never followed up with evidence.

USADA CEO Travis Tygart called the news of the Chinese positive tests “crushing.”

“It’s even more devastating to learn the World Anti-Doping Agency and the Chinese Anti-Doping Agency secretly, until now, swept these positives under the carpet by failing to fairly and evenly follow the global rules that apply to everyone else in the world,” Tygart said.

World Aquatics, which oversees global swimming, told the Daily Telegraph it was confident “that these (adverse analytical findings) were handled diligently and professionally, and in accordance with all applicable anti-doping regulations, including the World Anti-Doping Code.”

The drug at the center of this case was also the medication that led to the suspension of Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva at the Winter Olympics in Beijing in 2022.

In that case, WADA moved quickly to sanction Valieva upon learning about her positive test.

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 fulfill that role.

Sign in to unlock all user benefits
  • Get notified on top games and events
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign up / manage to our newsletters with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early bird access to discounts & offers to our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment