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U.S. swimming greats tell Congress Olympic anti-doping measures are inadequate Reuters

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By Moira Warburton and Allende Miglietta

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. swimming star Michael Phelps told a congressional committee on Tuesday that anti-doping measures “were insufficient” to tackle a doping scandal involving Chinese swimmers ahead of this summer’s Paris Olympics.

Phelps, fellow gold medalist Allison Schmidt and Travis Tygart, the head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, testified before lawmakers before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations about the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) initiative.

“It is clear that any attempts to reform WADA have fallen short and that deep-rooted systemic problems remain that repeatedly undermine the integrity of international sport and athletes’ rights to compete fairly,” Phelps said at the hearing.

Phelps is the most decorated athlete in Olympic history with 28 medals, while Schmidt has 10 in four games. Neither athlete will compete in Paris.

WADA in April acknowledged reports that about 20 Chinese swimmers had tested positive for the banned substance trimetazidine, which is found in heart medication, ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Schmidt called on lawmakers to hold WADA and the World Anti-Doping Agency to account.

“If we win, it’s because we earned it. And if we lose, it’s because the competition was fair,” Schmidt said.

WADA was invited to testify but declined, citing the hearing’s focus on the cases of Chinese swimmers.

“WADA believes it would be inappropriate to become embroiled in a political debate before a U.S. congressional committee regarding a case in another country, particularly while an independent investigation into WADA’s handling of the case is ongoing,” WADA said in a statement.

China’s anti-doping agency, CHINADA, has said the athletes were inadvertently exposed to doping tests due to contaminants and should not be held responsible for any positive tests. China announced its swimming team of 31 athletes this month.

WADA said in April it would send a compliance team to evaluate China’s anti-doping program, but top swimmers, including seven-time gold medalist Katie Ledecky, who will compete in Paris, continue to voice concerns.

Lawmakers from both parties sharply criticized WADA’s handling of the case.

Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said WADA’s refusal to testify was “completely unacceptable,” noting the agency received more than $3 million in U.S. government funding last year.

Last month, another House committee called on the Justice Department and the International Olympic Committee to open an investigation into doping cases involving Chinese swimmers.

Phelps also said in his prepared testimony that he has close friends who have been affected by the incident.

“Many of them will live the rest of their lives with the questions, ‘what if?'” Phelps said. “As athletes, we can no longer blindly trust the World Anti-Doping Agency, an organization that has continually demonstrated it is unable or unwilling to enforce its policies consistently around the world.”

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