Australia’s Horton says anti-doping system failed athletes amid China furore

By Reuters
April 23, 2024
Australia's Mack Horton celebrates on the podium with his gold medal after he won the Men's 400m Freestyle Final during the swimming event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 6, 2016. — AFP/File

MELBOURNE: Sport has been compromised and athletes have been let down by a “failed” anti-doping system, former Olympic champion Mack Horton said on Monday following revelations that 23 Chinese swimmers were cleared after failing drug tests before the Tokyo Games.


The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) confirmed on Saturday that the swimmers tested positive for a banned drug but were cleared by a Chinese investigation that found the athletes were exposed to contamination.

WADA said it accepted China’s finding and declined to appeal it, triggering outrage from leading swimmers and criticism from the U.S. Anti-doping Agency. Australian Horton, who refused to share a world championship podium with Chinese rival Sun Yang in an anti-doping protest, said news of the failed drug tests was “infuriating” for the entire sporting community.

“I feel for the deserving athletes who have missed out on life-changing medal opportunities due to a failed system,” Horton, who won a freestyle gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics, said in comments published by the Sydney Morning Herald.

“I feel for the deserving athletes at the centre of this episode. They are victim to a system which has disrespected sport in a bid to manipulate success.” Late on Sunday, WADA issued a statement saying it stood by its decision after viewing a documentary by German broadcaster ARD on the Chinese drug tests.

“We are equally confident that WADA’s independent Intelligence and Investigations Department followed up on all allegations received, which were not corroborated by any evidence; and thus, did not meet (the) threshold to open an investigation,” WADA said in the statement.