Michael Phelps says US athletes are losing faith in WADA ahead of Paris Olympics | Olympic Games

U.S. 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 subcommittee Tuesday night.

The testimony from Michael Phelps and Allison Schmitt follows revelations this spring that 23 Chinese swimmers tested positive for a banned heart drug before the 2021 Tokyo Olympics but were cleared by WADA to compete. Five of these swimmers won medals, three of them 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 just behind China at the Tokyo Games. The Chinese and American teams broke the previous relay world record.

“We ran hard. We trained hard. We followed all the protocols. We accepted our defeat with grace,” Schmitt said. “Many of us will be haunted by this podium which may have been impacted by doping.”

Eleven of the Chinese swimmers who tested positive before Tokyo will compete again in Paris. Phelps repeatedly acquiesced as members of Congress criticized WADA and argued that Americans should be able to watch the Olympics without wondering whether the competition was rigged.

“As athletes, our trust can no longer be blindly placed in the World Anti-Doping Agency, an organization that continues to prove that it is either incapable or unwilling to enforce its policies consistently around the world.” , Phelps said.

Phelps expressed frustration that nothing had changed since his testimony before the same subcommittee seven years ago about WADA’s handling of Russian state-sponsored doping. “Once again, it is clear to me that all attempts to reform WADA have failed and that there are still deep-rooted systemic problems that are detrimental to the integrity of international sport and the rights of athletes to fair competition, time and competition again,” Phelps said. “Honestly, if we continue to let this go any further, the Olympics might not even be there.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has accepted Chinese anti-doping authorities’ conclusion that the 23 athletes had ingested the banned substance through contaminated food at a hotel. Independent anti-doping experts have questioned the finding, with U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart calling it “outrageous.”

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

Allison Schmitt speaks during the hearing on Capitol Hill. Photograph: Nathan Howard/Getty Images

WADA said restrictions linked to the Covid-19 pandemic in China prevented an “on-the-ground investigation” of the positive tests and concluded it could not refute the Chinese authorities’ explanation.

WADA President Witold Bańka was invited to testify on Tuesday but declined. “Unfortunately, some in the United States continue to claim that WADA acted inappropriately or showed bias toward China, although there is no evidence to support this theory,” Banka said in a statement. “The AMA understands the strained relationship that exists between the Chinese and US governments and has no mandate to be part of it. It is not appropriate for the fight against doping to be politicized in this way.”

In response to criticism, WADA appointed an independent investigator, Swiss prosecutor Eric Cottier, to review its handling of the China case. Cottier was appointed on April 25 and was expected to deliver his findings within two months. Her appointment also drew anger from critics who said it highlighted conflicts of interest.

The United States contributes more to WADA than any other country, including nearly $3.7 million this year. China has given WADA $1.8 million more than its required membership fee since 2018, Tygart noted in his testimony.

Tygart called on the United States to condition its future funding of WADA on reforms within the agency, an idea that both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have said they support. “I think the threat of that, or even a suspension (of funding) for a period of time, will go a long way toward influencing the truth,” Tygart said. “We should be making sure that our money is being used for a good purpose, and right now, that’s absolutely not the case.”

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