Lawmakers Urge Funding Halt To WADA Over Ignored Chinese Doping Scandal

During a congressional hearing on June 25, several lawmakers called for the United States to withhold funding to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) until the organization demonstrates greater transparency and accountability. The hearing, held by the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, was convened to scrutinize anti-doping measures ahead of the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Concerns arose after revelations that WADA allowed China to overlook 28 positive doping tests for the drug Temozolomide (TMZ) involving 23 swimmers just nine months before the 2021 Olympics. Despite these positive tests, WADA did not inform the public or ban the athletes from competing. WADA has also refused to release the evidence related to the Chinese doping incidents.

At the conclusion of the hearing, lawmakers insisted that U.S. funding to WADA should be contingent on the agency agreeing to an independent audit.

“Trust in WADA has been eroded,” former Olympian Michael Phelps testified. “They have proven incapable or unwilling to enforce their policies consistently around the world.”

Phelps, along with fellow Olympian Allison Schmidt and U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart, testified about the negative impact of doping on sports and athletes’ mental health. They highlighted WADA’s past failures, including its handling of the 2017 Russian doping scandal.

Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) criticized WADA’s absence at the hearing, where WADA President Witold Banka was invited but did not appear. “Their refusal to appear today calls into question their commitment to accountability,” Griffith said. “If they’re not going to do the job, we shouldn’t fund them.”

In a statement, WADA defended its decision not to participate, citing concerns over being drawn into a political debate between the U.S. and China. The agency claimed it has no mandate to intervene in disputes involving other countries.

Tygart accused WADA of failing to uphold fairness and integrity, urging the U.S. to take action to hold WADA accountable. He cited the organization’s history of covering up positive doping tests and its reluctance to investigate high-profile cases without external pressure.

“Thanks to courageous whistleblowers, we know that on the eve of the 2021 Olympic games, WADA allowed China to disregard the rules and bury 28 positive tests,” Tygart said.

The 23 Chinese swimmers who tested positive for TMZ went on to win several medals, including three golds, at the Olympics. Eleven of those athletes are set to compete in the 2024 Olympics.

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Tygart also raised concerns about possible bribery, noting that China paid WADA nearly $2 million more than their required annual dues in 2018 and 2019, just before the doping investigations.

“I found out that China paid WADA nearly $2 million more than their required annual due payments,” DeGette said. “That was right before these doping investigations.”

Tygart responded, indicating that $500,000 of China’s extra contributions were earmarked for investigations, yet WADA has not opened any related probes.

Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) asked Phelps and Schmidt how athletes could hide positive test results. Both athletes were unsure, but Tygart clarified that it’s not the athletes but WADA that has been “turning a blind eye” to violations by China and Russia.

“Russia and China have been too big to fail in WADA’s eyes, and they get a different set of rules than the rest of the world,” Tygart stated.

Schmidt added that clean athletes lack trust in WADA. “We ask for trust, accountability, and transparency,” she said. “We don’t have accountability and transparency as we have not seen the full files.”

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