WADA invites independent prosecutor to review its handling of Chinese contamination case in swimming

compliance docs

In light of the damaging and baseless allegations that are being leveled at the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) regarding the China Anti-Doping Agency’s (CHINADA’s) no-fault contamination case involving 23 swimmers from China in 2021, WADA has responded to calls and invited an independent prosecutor, Mr. Eric Cottier, to conduct a thorough review of WADA’s handling of the matter. 

The decision was taken with the unanimous support of the WADA Executive Committee (ExCo), which met virtually today to discuss this matter. In recent days, WADA had received requests for such a review by a small number of its stakeholders. The 16-member ExCo is made up of independent members as well as athletes, Governments from all regions of the world, and the Sport Movement, who represent their respective constituency groups. 

Entirely independent of WADA, the Sport Movement and Governments, Mr. Eric Cottier is a prosecutor of 39 years’ experience, who was the Attorney General of the Canton de Vaud, Switzerland, from September 2005 until his retirement in December 2022. Prior to that, he had been a public prosecutor from 1984 to 1991, President of the 2nd District Court in Vevey and Lavaux from 1991 to 1998, and a cantonal court judge from 1999 until 2005. 

Mr. Cottier was Prosecutor Extraordinary at the federal level in Switzerland from 2016-2018. He is currently a member of the Board of the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law, and a member of a working group at the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT), an independent, inter-governmental organization based in Rome.

WADA President Witold Bańka said: “WADA’s integrity and reputation is under attack. In the past few days, WADA has been unfairly accused of bias in favor of China by not appealing the CHINADA case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. We continue to reject the false accusations and we are pleased to be able to put these questions into the hands of an experienced, respected and independent prosecutor. I thank the members of WADA’s Executive Committee for meeting at such short notice and for their support in this matter.” 

WADA Director General Olivier Niggli said: “WADA is grateful to Mr. Cottier who has accepted to take on this mandate. While not one shred of evidence has been presented to support any of the allegations made against WADA, we wish to deal with the matter as quickly and as comprehensively as possible so that the matter is appropriately handled in advance of the upcoming Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games.” 

To facilitate his review, Mr. Cottier will be granted full and unfettered access to all of WADA’s files and documents related to this matter and will be free to consult with any independent experts as he sees fit, so as to reach his conclusions. Specifically, he will be asked to present his opinion related to the two main questions at hand:  

  1. Is there any indication of bias towards China, undue interference or other impropriety in WADA’s assessment of the decision by CHINADA not to bring forward anti-doping rule violations against the 23 Chinese swimmers?  
  2. Based on a review of the case file related to the decision by CHINADA not to bring forward anti-doping rule violations against the 23 Chinese swimmers, as well as any other elements that WADA had at its disposal, was the decision by WADA not to challenge on appeal the contamination scenario put forward by CHINADA a reasonable one? 

Mr. Cottier will start his work in the coming days and is expected to deliver his findings within two months. Upon completion of his report, the ExCo will assess it and consider next steps, as appropriate. 

In addition to the independent prosecutor and entirely separate to his work, WADA will shortly send a compliance audit team to China in order to assess the current state of its anti-doping program as part of the Agency’s regular compliance monitoring program. For added reassurance, WADA will invite a number of independent auditors from the broader anti-doping community to join the audit team on that mission. 

Chair of the WADA Athlete Council and ExCo member, Ryan Pini, said: “I have spoken to members of the Athlete Council on this matter to keep them updated, along with WADA senior leadership to provide facts and answer the questions athletes are asking. There is broad support for WADA’s position on this, but one major issue that has been raised is around the serious breach of data that led to athletes’ personal information being leaked in the media. It is a matter of great concern for us that these athletes, who given the facts of this case, are entirely innocent and, in fact, victims of contamination without any fault or negligence on their side, are now being accused of wrongdoing with their names and sensitive details about them being published. I have asked WADA to conduct a full inquiry into what led to this information being leaked to the media and to take all necessary steps to sanction those responsible for exposing these athletes to unfair criticism and to ensure athletes rights are protected.”