Grant Hackett lashes out after Chinese swimming scandal comes to light after three years

The bombshell findings have opened the door for Australia to be elevated from a bronze medal to silver from the 2021 Olympics.

Aussie legend Grant Hackett has blasted China and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) over revelations 23 Chinese swimmers tested positive for a banned substance before the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 but were still allowed to compete. The bombshell findings have rocked the swimming world just months out from the Paris Olympics in July, and left Hackett and many others seething.

Australian swimming chiefs revealed on Sunday that they're making their own inquiries, after it was revealed this week that the Chinese athletes in question reportedly tested positive for trimetazidine (TMZ), which is found in heart medication. WADA accepted the country's findings that this was due to substance contamination, which is what occurred with Aussie star Shayna Jack.

Grant Hackett, pictured here alongside Chinese and Australia swimmers in Tokyo in 2021.

WADA said it was notified in June of 2021 of the decision from China's anti-doping agency (CHINADA) to accept that the swimmers returned adverse analytical findings (AAFs) after inadvertently being exposed to the drug through contamination. WADA - the global anti-doping body - has the authority to appeal the rulings of national doping agencies, but said it reviewed the decision and consulted scientific experts and external legal counsel to test the contamination theory presented by CHINADA.

"WADA ultimately concluded it was not in a position to disprove the possibility that contamination was the source of TMZ and it was compatible with the analytical data in the file," the anti-doping body said in a statement. "WADA also concluded that ... the athletes would be held to have no fault or negligence. As such, and based on the advice of external counsel, WADA considered an appeal was not warranted."

Junxuan Yang, Muhan Tang, Yufei Zhang and Bingjie Li of China.
Junxuan Yang, Muhan Tang, Yufei Zhang and Bingjie Li of China's gold medal-winning 4x200m relay team from Tokyo 2021.

Chinese athletes in question won medals in Tokyo

China sent 30 athletes to Tokyo as part of the swimming team, winning three gold medals and six overall. One of those golds came in the women's 4x200m freestyle relay, which saw the Australian team of Ariarne Titmus, Emma McKeon, Madi Wilson and Leah Neale take bronze.

Without mitigating circumstances, athletes who fail doping tests are usually subject to bans of two to four years for a first offence and a lifetime ban for a second. Jack was infamously banned for four years after testing positive to ligandrol, before it was reduced to two years on appeal because she took it unknowingly through a supplement. But she still missed the Tokyo Olympics as a result.

Ariarne Titmus, Emma McKeon, Madi Wilson and Leah Neale.
Ariarne Titmus, Emma McKeon, Madi Wilson and Leah Neale with their bronze medals.

Grant Hackett and Swimming Australia respond

Swimming Australia released a brief statement on Sunday saying: "At this stage we are making our own inquiries with World Aquatics, until we know more, we aren't in a position to comment." The controversy has opened up the possibility of China being stripped of the six medals won in Tokyo, which would elevate the Aussies to silver in the 4x200m relay.

“You can’t come out and obviously tarnish everyone as a drug cheat immediately, but it’s very suspect given the circumstances and the fact it wasn’t disclosed," a furious Hackett told the Herald Sun. "That’s the thing that makes it more suspicious than anything else.

“It’s like well, if there is nothing to hide, why aren’t we disclosing that there was a process undertaken? That there was people that essentially tested positive but there was contamination, so there was nothing to see here.”

The Australian team, pictured here after China claimed gold in the 4x200m relay at the Tokyo Olympics.
The Australian team looks on after China claim gold in the 4x200m relay at the Tokyo Olympics.

Jack’s lawyer Tim Fuller said: “To say this decision is an outlier is an understatement. It is perplexing, inconsistent and the secrecy and efforts to disclose any publication or announcement is mystifying. It is the kind of decision that further erodes athlete confidence in WADA."

Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated, whose daughter Brooke was part of the United States swimming team in Tokyo, has revealed “some American Olympic swimmers from the Tokyo Games have been alerted to alleged Chinese positive drug tests that could alter the outcomes of multiple races and change medal distribution”. Brooke Forde swum in the heats of the 4x200m relay, with the USA going on to claim silver behind China.


World Aquatics happy with process around Chinese drug tests

World Aquatics, the global body of swimming formerly known as FINA, has said it is confident the positive tests were handled "diligently and professionally." The body added: "With regard to the AAFs ... they were carefully considered by the FINA Doping Control Review Board.

"Materials relating to the source of the AAFs were subject to independent expert scrutiny retained by FINA. World Aquatics is confident that these AAFs were handled diligently and professionally, and in accordance with applicable anti-doping regulations, including the WADA Code."

None of the Chinese swimmers in question tested positive to banned substance during the Tokyo Games. Many are expected to be in contention again for the Paris Olympics, and it could lead to tighter scrutiny of China.

with agencies