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On Chinese doping case, lawmakers demand action, answers from Olympic and law-enforcement leaders

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A bipartisan group of U.S. senators sent a letter Wednesday to the leader of the World Anti-Doping Agency asking for answers about the case in which 23 Chinese swimmers were cleared to compete at the Tokyo Olympics despite positive tests for a banned drug.

That letter came a day after a bipartisan group from the House sent a similar request to IOC President Thomas Bach and a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray asking for a briefing on federal investigators’ knowledge of the case.

“It is not just this one incident that causes concern for many athletes, anti-doping agencies, and fans across the world, but it is the fact that WADA has long shown questionable ethical behavior,” said the letter sent from Sens. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

Last month, German broadcaster ARD and the New York Times reported that Chinese authorities determined the swimmers who had tested positive for a banned heart medication would not be punished because they had accidentally ingested the banned heart medication found in a hotel kitchen.

The story triggered a harsh backlash from WADA critics who said the agency did not follow its own rules when it decided to accept China’s explanation for the positives instead of further pursuing the case. WADA has argued it handled the case appropriately and that, given the circumstances, it would have had virtually no chance of winning the case on appeal.

Three of the swimmers who were cleared won gold medals less than a year later in Tokyo.

“This scandal raises serious legal, ethical, and competitive concerns and may constitute a broader state-sponsored strategy by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to unfairly compete at the Olympic Games,” Reps. John Moolenaar, R-Mich., and Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., wrote to Wray and Garland.

Moolenaar is chair and Krishnamoorthi is ranking member on the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party.

They and the senators also focused on reporting by The Associated Press that pointed out China had donated nearly $2 million above its required annual dues to WADA programs in the two years before this case erupted. The lawmakers questioned whether WADA’s sponsorship deal with a Chinese-based sports products company was a conflict of interest.

“The global anti-doping system — a bedrock of the international sports community — is built upon trust and accountability,” the senators wrote in their letter to WADA President Witold Banka. “When WADA loses the international community’s trust, it can no longer effectively do its job.”

WADA appointed a Swiss prosecutor to conduct an investigation into the case and the agency’s handling of it. Critics have said the terms of that investigation aren’t broad enough and have asked for a wider probe, along with full disclosure of notes involved in the case file.

“While the recent appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate these claims is a step in the right direction, that appointment is not enough — real accountability from an independent auditor is imperative,” the senators wrote.

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AP Summer Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games

By EDDIE PELLS
AP National Writer

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