WADA statement regarding congressional hearing in the United States

Conference of Parties

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) acknowledges today’s congressional hearing in the United States titled “Examining Anti-Doping Measures in Advance of the 2024 Olympics”.  

While WADA was invited to send a representative, the Agency chose to decline. Despite the title, the relevant organizations with responsibility for the anti-doping program during the Olympic Games were not invited to the hearing, which was held by the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Instead, the hearing focused mainly on a contamination case from 2021 involving 23 swimmers from the People’s Republic of China.  

WADA appreciates that some stakeholders, particularly in the U.S., have questions regarding the case and, from the start, the Agency has been at pains to answer those questions openly and comprehensively. As it relates to the hearing, however, as an independent international organization governing the anti-doping system that encompasses almost 200 countries, WADA considers it inappropriate to be pulled into a political debate before a U.S. congressional committee regarding a case from a different country, especially while an independent review into WADA’s handling of the case is ongoing. 

WADA President, Witold Bańka, said: “As WADA expected, today’s congressional hearing focused on pushing out more misinformation regarding the contamination case from 2021 involving 23 swimmers from China, and causing further damage to WADA’s reputation and that of the global anti-doping system. Unfortunately, there persists a narrative from some in the U.S. suggesting that WADA somehow acted inappropriately or showed bias towards China, despite there being no evidence to support that theory. It is clear from this narrative and from the intervention of a committee within the U.S. federal government, on the eve of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, that these cases of contamination from 2021 are a hot political issue. WADA understands the tense relationship that exists between the governments of China and U.S. and has no mandate to be part of that.  

“It is not appropriate for anti-doping to be politicized in this way. All it does is weaken confidence in the system, which ultimately does not benefit athletes from the U.S. or anywhere else. WADA always endeavors to protect clean sport and treat athletes fairly, regardless of where in the world they are from.”  

WADA has repeatedly and fully explained how it appropriately handled the case and that according to all the available evidence – scientific and otherwise – this was not a case of doping but rather one of no-fault, environmental contamination. Such cases of no-fault contamination are not unheard of. They have occurred in many countries around the world, including several times in the U.S. WADA reviews each case with skepticism and tests the evidence to ensure fairness for athletes. Indeed, in this case, WADA diligently reviewed the file and made a perfectly reasonable decision – based on the scientific and external legal advice – not to appeal. World Aquatics, the governing body for swimming, independently made that very same decision based on its review of the same case file.  

WADA Director General, Olivier Niggli, said: “Some voices in the U.S. are calling for the full files of these 23 cases to be released and to be sent directly to the U.S. Government. There are many reasons why WADA should not – and will not – do this. Case files are confidential and there is no provision in the World Anti-Doping Code (Code) to release personal and other potentially sensitive data to third parties or the general public. WADA – and World Aquatics, which has the same access and powers in this matter – is bound by the Code to keep such documents confidential. Imagine if the shoe was on the other foot. What would our partners in the U.S. say if the Chinese Government demanded to see confidential case files of American citizens? Would they be comfortable with that? The truth is that publishing this information would set a dangerous precedent and would constitute a serious breach of the Code.” 

A review of WADA’s handling of the Chinese case is ongoing by independent prosecutor, Eric Cottier. He has been granted full and unfettered access to all WADA’s files and documents related to this matter and is consulting with independent experts of his own choosing to reach his conclusions. WADA believes that it is important to afford Mr. Cottier the time and space to carry out his independent review and finds it inappropriate to hold a pre-emptive hearing that might seek to exert political pressure or otherwise prejudice that review. Mr. Cottier’s appointment and the scope of his review were fully supported by WADA’s Foundation Board and Executive Committee, a fact that is captured within the minutes from the ExCo meeting of 25 April. 

WADA will diligently consider any recommendations that the independent prosecutor makes. Regardless of the outcomes of the review, WADA will collaborate with the global anti-doping community to identify any learnings from this case that can be applied to the Code and International Standards that are currently undergoing stakeholder review, and to WADA’s practices more generally.