Chinese Swimmers Test Positive for Banned Substance Before Olympics

( – Seven months prior to the 2021 Olympics, 23 top Chinese swimmers tested positive for the banned substance trimetazidine (TMZ). The drug is used medically for certain heart conditions and tinnitus. It is also used as a performance-enhancing stimulant by some athletes. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has banned its use “in- and out-of-competition” since 2014.

China’s antidoping agency, known as Chinada, says they investigated the matter at the time and found the Chinese swimmers innocent of wrongdoing. The Chinese swimmers were all staying at the same hotel, and it is believed the kitchens were contaminated with the substance. They claim to have been exposed unwittingly, and in too small of an amount to have performance benefits. They were allowed to compete, and many won gold medals. It is not clear whether the claimed environmental contamination is a reasonable alternative explanation.

By contrast, when Australian swimmer Shayna Jack tested positive for the anabolic agent Ligandro in 2019 she was given a significant but temporary ban from the sport. This was surprising as arbitrators accepted that she had not knowingly ingested it. It was speculated that the legal supplements she used were contaminated with the banned substance. The same sports body that accepted Chinada’s judgement on the Chinese swimmers just offered Jack a reduction of her ban from four years to only two.

With less than 100 days to the start of the Paris Olympics, many are outraged by the new information about the Chinese swimmers, referring to the situation as a cover-up. Many athletes, some who lost in 2021 to the swimmers who had tested positive for TMZ, took to social media to express their outrage. British Olympic swimmer Adam Peaty demanded to know why this information was not made public at the time, and why strict liability was waived in this case. Similar incidents have led to Olympic winners being stripped of their medals.

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