USADA claims cover-up in the Chinese swimmers case. USADA

While the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) tries to defuse the constant blowback from the Chinese swimmers doping scandal, the American governing body is keeping the pressure on with a new 16-page document emphasizing its “deep concern” over the current state of affairs.

The reactions to the case that The New York Times and German broadcaster ARD unveiled two weeks ago won’t die down, despite the global agency’s public relations efforts to manage the crisis and its announcement last week that it would conduct an independent investigation led by former Swiss prosecutor Eric Cottier. The move, along with the decision that the Chinese Anti-Doping Agency would largely provide the investigative team, was deemed “interesting” shortly after by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), one of WADA’s harshest critics, even before news of the scandal broke.

The back-and-forth between both agencies has been incessant since, and the latest dart came from the American’s corner in response to WADA’s publishing of a document intended to detail the handling of the 23 positive tests that were not originally made public in 2021, therefore allowing for the athletes to compete in the Tokyo Olympics and rein in plenty of medals for China. “The facts and intelligence also support a finding of coordinated intentional doping such that WADA should have initiated an investigation into the source of these positive tests," USADA stated once more on Wednesday."But it did not, failing all clean athletes."

The argument that the failed tests, that registered traces of the performance-enhancing drug trimetazidine (TMZ) were due to a case of group contamination has been the other point of contention, even after WADA published a frequently asked questions" (FAQ) sheet assuring that it "followed every process and line of inquiry when reviewing this file".

USADA, and plenty others, disagree and have repeatedly pointed out the need for urgent reforms in order for WADA to restore its image ahead of Paris 2024. "The doubling down on half-truths and self-serving rationalizations for failing to enforce its own rules is deeply concerning," the American agency criticized in its latest statement. "Those who value fair play remain completely unsatisfied by the answers being provided by WADA regarding its sweeping of 23 positive tests under the carpet."

 WADA insisted that the events that followed were unavoidable. "Based on the science and the verifiable facts, as well as external legal counsel, (WADA) decided not to take what inevitably would have been a doomed appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport," the global body said in its own statement.

On Thursday, one of ARD’s specialized journalists, Hajo Seppelt, posted a thread on X with 34 questions regarding WADA’s allegations that the contaminated food at the hotel where most of the swimmers stayed at for a meet was at the centre of the issue, then proceeded to answer them, one by one. “If you read this Q and A by @usantidoping you understand better why the credibility of the WADA leadership is tumbling down because of the China affair. They are not able to respond to the easiest obvious questions,” the reporter posted. “And if it is true - as said here by USADA - that WADA I & I didn’t get the complete file from their bosses it would become a (not only internal) @wada_ama integrity scandal. WADA should clarify this soon. If it’s true, it would raise serious concerns about their leadership.”

The international agency presided by Witold Banka is dependant on significant US government funding of its annual budget to adequately police sports and federations around the globe, which has been an increasing point of contention as both WADA and USADA have clashed repeatedly, with the scaling back of monetary contributions a valuable pressure mechanism on the American side.

Neither the Polish official nor USADA’s boss, Travis Tygart, have held back punches in their newest spat, with the latter labelling the Chinese swimmers situation a "potential cover-up". Despite the massive regional charge, with athlete-led pressure groups like the Team USA Athletes’ Commission and World Players Association recently joining in, WADA seems intent on holding its ground. "To this day, no evidence has been produced that would change our position. Very serious and defamatory allegations continue to be made about WADA without so much as a shred of supporting evidence. WADA continues to reject those allegations as entirely baseless," the agency insisted.

Like others before him, Seppelt pointed out on his social media explainer that Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva was suspended in January after testing positive for the same drug in the 2022 Winter Olympics, despite also alleging a possible contamination theory.