• Swiss prosecutor Eric Cottier was appointed by the World Anti-Doping Agency to investigate its handling of incident

An investigator appointed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) to investigate its handling of the 23 Chinese swimmers who tested positive for banned substances has cleared the drugs body of any wrong doing.

Swiss prosecutor and lead investigator Eric Cottier found there was nothing in the file to suggest Wada in any way favoured the 23 swimmers who tested positive for trimetazidine (TMZ), a medication that increases blood flow to the heart.

But his report brought a stinging response from athletes groups, while United States Anti-Doping Agency (Usada), the global body's fiercest critic, questioned how much Cottier had actually been able to investigate.

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"This [report] is unsurprising since Wada itself hand-picked the investigator and set the extremely limited scope of the investigation, preventing a meaningful review," Usada said.

"Given its cosy role in the creation of the investigation, the world also has to wonder if Wada was able to see and even sanitise the report before its release."

The swimmers were previously cleared by a Chinese investigation which said they were inadvertently exposed to the drug through contamination. The report determined the swimmers were staying at a hotel where traces of TMZ were discovered in the kitchen.

Wada said it had no evidence to challenge China's findings and that external counsel had advised against appealing them.

Cottier's investigation reached a similar conclusion, finding no irregularities on the part of Wada's review of the China Anti-Doping Agency (Chinada) decision and that it had covered all relevant issues in determining whether to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

"All the elements taken into consideration by Wada, whether they come from the file produced by Chinada with its decision or from the investigation procedures that it carried out, show the decision not to appeal to be reasonable, both from the point of view of the facts and the applicable rules," wrote Cottier in his report.

Wada has vigorously defended its handling of the Chinese case and welcomed the report which vindicates its process.

A more complete report is expected in the coming weeks and could include recommendations but Wada president Witold Banka emphasised it will not change any of the findings in the initial summary.

" ... the independent prosecutor has concluded Wada showed no bias towards China and the decision not to appeal the Chinese swimming cases was undisputedly reasonable based on the evidence," Banka told Reuters. "His conclusion is very crystal clear.

"We were disgustingly accused of wrongdoing by a few individuals that there was a cover-up and that is why we found it very important to engage the independent prosecutor."

The report did not impress anti-doping groups FairSport and Global Athlete, which called the process "inherently flawed from the outset due to its limited scope and independence."

"The report, as expected, does not provide sufficient evidence to support Cottier's findings and conclusions - it also does not explain why 23 Chinese athletes were not provisionally suspended with mandatory public disclosure," the groups said in a joint statement.

"Until all related documents are made public, trust in the system will not be regained and WADA's position as the global regulator will continue to be challenged," they said.

In a video message to American athletes on Monday, Usada chief Travis Tygart said that if the Cottier report did not provide answers then a US-backed investigation would.

A US House of Representatives committee in May asked the Department of Justice to launch inquiries into the Chinese doping cases ahead of this year's Paris Olympics.

Wada confirmed last week it was aware the matter was being investigated by US law enforcement but that the report made clear it did nothing wrong and accused Usada of playing games.

"From the very beginning what I said is, this is the clear political game from the few individuals from the US to destabilise the system and maybe to take control," Banka said. "We have to be based on the rules of law and not conspiracy theories. We have nothing to hide and did a good job.

"Why one country wants to take control of the anti-doping system is completely unfair and is against the harmonisation of the system and very dangerous for the sporting world."

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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2024-07-09T23:22:16Z dg43tfdfdgfd