Phelps, Schmitt plead Congress to crack down on doping ahead of Olympics

schmittallison phelpsmichael 062524jg01 w

Star Olympian swimmers Michael Phelps and Allison Schmitt took to Capitol Hill to urge lawmakers to crack down on doping ahead of the Olympics.

Alongside Travis Tygart, the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the Olympians made the case for why and how the government could sanction the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) for its alleged failure to enforce anti-doping rules. 

Following reports, WADA confirmed in April that 23 swimmers on the Chinese team tested positive for trimetazidine (TMZ), a performance-enhancing drug, but accepted the China Anti-Doping Agency’s (CHINADA) conclusion that the athletes were exposed due to contamination. Eleven of the athletes involved in the scandal have been named to the Paris team, according to NBC.

“While competing at the highest levels, I witnessed firsthand the pervasive uncertainty and suspicion surrounding doping, which significantly affected my confidence and that of my fellow athletes,” Phelps told the legislators on the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

Phelps was joined by his wife and youngest, newborn child in the audience. Both Phelps and Schmitt expressed fears that allowing doping to go unpunished would “crush” the next generation’s athletic aspirations.

“I think if we allow this to slide even farther, the Olympic games won’t even be there,” Phelps later added. 

Lawmakers across the aisle united behind the goal of seeking accountability from WADA.

“If we allow our confidence in fair play to erode, we will undermine our confidence in the sport,” Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), chair of the subcommittee, said.

Ranking member Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) concisely concluded, ““Americans do not like cheaters.”

This hearing was not the first time WADA’s practices have been litigated by Congress. In 2017, Phelps and Tygart similarly testified to the committee over the era’s Russian state-sponsored doping scandal. According to Tygart’s testimony, the agency received a 60 percent bump in its budget to help fund its investigations unit, including $3.7 million in U.S. contributions.

While several lawmakers highlighted the United States’s contribution to WADA’s coffers as a tool to reign in the agency, some also pointed that Chinese funding could have tipped the scale in their favor.

“Did payment from the PRC influence their decision making,” Castor speculated in a series of rhetorical questions.

Tygert clarified to The Hill that while the US is the single largest governmental contributor to WADA, China paid above its required contribution in the year before it 

“What do they expect and then paying more that they don’t have to pay that there is no obligation to pay?” he said.

Tygert made specific requests to Congress: to subpoena the Chinese dossier, demand an independent expert committee to review positive tests that are not deemed a rule violation and conduct a complete audit of WADA. 

In early June, the House appropriations included a cut of approximately $1.5 million from WADA

“I think that was a very powerful signal that we’re not playing around here anymore,” Tygert concluded. “We need to get WADA in order to ensure fairness across the globe.”

WADA president Witold Bańka declined an invitation to testify before the committee alongside Phelps, Schmitt, and Tygert.

“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,” Bańka wrote in a public statement from the agency.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top