Worldwide outrage at the World Anti-Doping Agency’s behaviour has not moved it to accept any fault and instead enraged officials who have declared they would take “whatever action necessary” to defend allegations of a cover-up during their investigation into Chinese swimmers testing positive for a banned drug.

Revelations that 23 Chinese swimmers who tested positive for trimetazidine (TMZ), which can enhance performance, ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 were not provisionally suspended and then cleared to compete has raised the ire of swimmers from all over the world and other leading anti-doping agencies.

United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA head Travis Tygart said WADA and the Chinese anti-doping body, which investigated and cleared the swimmers citing contaminated samples, had “secretly, until now, swept these positives under the carpet” and called the situation a “potential cover-up”.

WADA accepted China’s explanation that athletes’ samples were contaminated by food served in a kitchen at team accommodation during a camp.

But WADA president Witold Banka told an online news conference overnight that the anti-doping body had “followed the whole due process and diligently investigated every line of inquiry in this matter” and strongly defended its actions.

“If we had to do it over again now, we would do exactly the same thing.” Banka said.

“No credible evidence of wrongdoing was provided by any source who came forward on this file, so the threshold for WADA intelligence and investigations to open an investigation was not met.”

He said WADA had “no credible way to disprove the contamination theory that was accepted by CHINADA”, a position that was also accepted by World Aquatics, with travel bans during the Covid-19 pandemic limiting access to investigate.

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WADA’s general counsel Ross Wenzel said there was “close to zero” chance of an appeal of the findings through the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Banka also questioned Tygart’s motives for his criticism of WADA, although the US official was far from on his own in questioning the process and the findings that were only revealed last weekend.

China's Sun Yang has been banned for doping. Manan Vatsyayana / AFP
Camera IconChina’s Sun Yang has been banned for doping. Manan Vatsyayana / AFP Credit: Supplied

“I have to say that from our perspective, look(ing) at the comments on social media and the official statements from USADA, it is obvious that most of the comments are politically motivated and without any evidence that there was something, on our side, wrong,” he said.

The WADA president said his body had never been overly lenient on Chinese athletes.

“It is worth pointing out that at the same time as our experts were reviewing this case in 2021, we are also vigorously pursuing justice in the case of another swimmer from China, Sun Yang,” he said.

Sun, a three-time Olympic champion, is about to finish a second doping ban. His first, in 2014, was for taking TMZ.

Wenzel said WADA was going through comments made around the world with a “fine tooth comb” and that the body would “take whatever action is necessary” to defend its reputation.