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US probing Chinese swimmers’ doping test

July 5, 2024

(CNN) — Swimming’s international governing body says its executive director Brent Nowicki has been ordered to testify in a US criminal investigation into a case involving 23 Chinese swimmers who failed doping tests in 2021 but were allowed to continue competing and won medals in the Tokyo Olympics.

In a statement sent to CNN on Friday, World Aquatics said Nowicki was served with a subpoena and is “working to schedule a meeting with the government, which, in all likelihood will obviate the need for testimony before a Grand Jury.”

The Chinese swimmers tested positive for trimetazidine, a banned performance-enhancing substance, several months before the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, according to a report from The New York Times released in April in coordination with German public broadcaster ARD.

Eleven of the 23 Chinese swimmers are set to compete in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

China’s anti-doping agency has said the 23 athletes tested positive for an “extremely low concentration” of trimetazidine at a national swimming competition in 2021.

Trimetazidine has the potential to boost endurance and has been banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) since 2014.

But the agency decided the swimmers were not responsible for the results because they were inadvertently exposed to the drug.

In May, the US House Select Committee on China asked the FBI and the Justice Department to launch an investigation into the case under a 2020 law that allows for the criminal prosecution of people who help athletes dope at international competitions, even if they didn’t happen in the United States.

“We can’t comment on the reported federal law enforcement investigation,” Travis Tygart, the CEO of the US Anti-Doping Agency, said in a statement to CNN Thursday.

“The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act was enacted in 2021 with broad athlete, sport, and multinational governmental support because WADA could not be trusted to be a strong, fair global watchdog to protect clean athletes and fair sport,” Tygart said.

In his statement, Tygart, who has blamed WADA and China’s doping watchdog (CHINADA) for covering up the positive tests, implied that WADA officials were afraid to travel to the US out of concern they would face questions from law enforcement.

In a news conference earlier this year, WADA President Witold Bańka said the agency “followed all due processes and diligently investigated every lead and line of enquiry in this matter” and found “no evidence of wrongdoing … and no credible way to disprove the contamination theory that was accepted by CHINADA.”

WADA was notified of the positive tests in June 2021, roughly a month before the Tokyo Games kicked off.

CNN has reached out to the Department of Justice and WADA for comment on the news about the investigation.

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