Aussies free to talk China doping case in Paris

Australian athletes will be free to speak out about the doping case surrounding the Chinese swimming team at the Paris Olympics as long as they do not do it on the playing field or medal podium, Chef de Mission Anna Meares said on Wednesday.

An independent investigation into the case of 23 Chinese swimmers who tested positive for banned substances and were cleared to compete in the Tokyo Olympics found the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) not mishandled it or show favouritism.

Anti-doping groups FairSport and Global Athlete said the report did not provide sufficient evidence to back up its findings and said the investigation was “inherently flawed from the outset due to its limited scope and independence”.

Meares, giving her final news conference before heading off to France with her 460-strong team, said it was important that Australian athletes were allowed to voice their opinions on such matters but with some conditions.

“If they have an opinion or when they want to share it, they’re welcome to, the athlete voice is really, really important,” she said.

“The only thing that I will say and have said to them myself is that a survey went through from the Athletes Commission to Olympians around protests and using our voice.

“There are lots of places where they can do that … but the two places that athletes agreed upon that protest and voice wouldn’t be used, was on the podium and on the field of play.”

Now-retired Australian swimmer Mack Horton refused to stand on the podium next to China’s Sun Yang at the 2019 World Championships, having previously called the three-times Olympic champion a “drug cheat”.

Sun completed a four-year ban for a dope test violation in May this year.

Meares said she had not yet read Tuesday’s report but had full confidence in WADA to continue to do its best to create as level a playing field as possible for athletes at the Games.

“The key to me is for athletes to feel like they can have trust in the process and the transparency of that process,” she said.

“And hopefully this will take the distraction of (this case) off the table because for the athletes, the less distraction for them at Games time, the better.

“I do have confidence that (WADA) follow the right process and that confidence should spread through the athletes. Absolutely. They need that confidence.”

On the other major issues facing the Games, security and the water quality in the river Seine, Meares said the Australian team had full confidence in local organisers and the French government.

“Security obviously is still a priority for us,” she said.

“We know that there’s been unrest and riots and protests in Paris. This is normal. This is how they express themselves … We have great faith in the French authorities and in the security that they’re putting in place.”

Meares said Australia’s chief medical officer had been monitoring the daily tests of the water quality of the Seine, where the openwater swimming and one leg of the triathlon will take place at the July 26-Aug. 11 Games.

Organisers have contingency plans to run the openwater swimming at the rowing lake and reduce the triathlon to two legs if the water quality was adjudged too poor on the day of competition.

“I don’t think that that’s going to happen, but anything can happen,” Meares said.

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