China picks swimmers caught in doping scandal for Paris

Paris Olympics
23 of China's swimming team of 2021 tested positive for a banned substance [Getty Images]

China has selected eleven swimmers that are embroiled in a major doping scandal for next month’s Paris Olympics.

Earlier this year it emerged that 23 of the country’s swimming team were cleared to compete at the Tokyo Games in 2021, despite testing positive for a banned substance months earlier.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) said it was "not in a position to disprove" an assertion from the China Anti-Doping Agency (Chinada) that they had unintentionally ingested heart medication trimetazidine (TMZ), which can enhance performance.

That sparked an outcry from Western anti-doping agencies and athletes, with United States Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) chief executive Travis Tygart suggesting a cover up, a claim Wada rejected as "completely false and defamatory" .

A third of the 31-strong team that China has now named for the Olympics are swimmers that were reported at the time to have failed drugs tests, threatening to cast a shadow over the Paris Games.

"This is the train-wreck we were worried about and it’s exactly why we called for a real, independent prosecution of these previously hidden positive tests, especially given that the statute of limitations hasn’t run out", Tygart told BBC Sport.

"All athletes deserve to know that it’s a fair and just outcome for these Chinese athletes to be at the Paris Games competing against other athletes who have been held to the strictest standards."

Wada launched an independent review of the case in April, with the findings expected to be delivered this summer. However, two key bodies which represent US athletes wrote to the country’s drug tsar calling for a "truly independent investigation".

Last month US Olympic champion Katie Ledecky said faith in the anti-doping system was at an "all-time low" in the wake of the scandal, adding, "it’s hard going into Paris knowing that we’re going to be racing some of these athletes."

In May World Aquatics appointed a five-person anti-doping audit review committee "to take away any learnings from this experience".

It said it hoped that the results of the investigation “will help erase any circulating doubt about the anti-doping movement and place the minds of our athletes at ease heading into the Paris Olympic Games”.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach has said he has "full confidence" in Wada.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lin Jian said on Wednesday that the country has "consistently adhered to the firm stance of zero tolerance for doping", and it "safeguarded fair competition in sports competitions, and has made positive contributions to the unified global fight against doping".

In a statement, Wada said: "We are not at liberty to confirm the identities of the athletes. Confidential personal information of the 23 athletes was leaked and published illegally. We will not compound that serious breach of data protection."