Star Swimmers Urge Crackdown on Doping Ahead of Paris Olympics

Athletes, including Allison Schmitt and Michael Phelps, went to Washington, DC, to lobby for stricter anti-doping measures in the run-up to the Olympics.

The Olympians, along with Travis Tygart, the head of the US Anti-Doping Agency, laid forth the reasons and methods by which the government may penalize WADA for what they said was a lack of enforcement of anti-doping regulations. 

In April, after hearing rumors, WADA verified that 23 Chinese swimmers tested positive for the performance-enhancing substance trimetazidine (TMZ). However, they agreed with CHINADA’s assessment that the athletes were subjected to the medication because of contamination. According to reports, eleven of the swimmers implicated in the controversy have been selected to represent France in Paris.

Trimetazidine (TMZ) is an anti-ischemic medication that enhances cellular metabolism. It is used in the treatment of cardiac-related disorders. TMZ may aid in the metabolism of fatty acids, which in turn improves the body’s utilization of oxygen. If this happens, the heart may receive more blood, and blood pressure won’t fluctuate as much, both of which can alleviate chest discomfort from narrowed blood arteries.  

Phelps shared with the legislators on the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations his personal experience of encountering widespread doubt and mistrust related to doping while competing at the highest levels. This had a profound impact on his own confidence and that of his fellow athletes.

Phelps and Schmitt both expressed concerns about the potential consequences of letting doping go unpunished, as it could severely impact the athletic aspirations of the next generation. Phelps later said that if we continue to ignore this issue, the future of the Olympic games may be at risk. 

Congress has already disputed WADA’s methods.  Tygart and Phelps both testified before the committee in 2017 on the state-sponsored doping issue in Russia at that time. Tygart said that the U.S. contributed $3.7 million to the agency’s budget, which resulted in a 60% increase for the investigations.

Legislators have used the US government’s financial support for WADA as a weapon to rein in the organization, while others have suggested that Chinese money may have gained WADA’s compliance.