Michael Phelps warns Congress that doping issues are a threat to the Olympics

Former Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, who won a record 23 gold medals in his career, warned a House subcommittee Tuesday night that he worries the Olympics could be over if doping issues aren’t addressed more promptly.

“If we let this go on any further, the Olympic Games may never happen,” Phelps told members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Oversight and Investigations subcommittee during an overnight hearing about recent revelations that 23 Chinese swimmers tested positive for banned substances ahead of the Tokyo Olympics but were not punished.

Phelps and fellow former U.S. swimmer Allison Schmitt, a four-time gold medalist, pointed out that their careers included regular drug testing to prove they were clean. Schmitt apologized to the committee, detailing how she and other U.S. female swimmers constantly had to pull their “pants up to their knees and shirts up to their chests and [drug testers] Watch the urine come out.”

“This is what we signed up for. And this is what we will continue to do to fight for clean sport,” he added.

Phelps said he is one of the most tested U.S. Olympic athletes of all time.

“If everybody else isn’t doing it and I’m subjecting myself to it, then it’s not right,” he said.

The hearing, held at night to account for the busy schedules of swimmers and some committee members, was part of an effort by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to withhold some of the $3.7 million the U.S. gives to help fund the World Anti-Doping Agency until WADA releases information provided in a report by Chinese doping officials in 2021. Several committee members said they would support withholding the money from WADA, though that is not the committee’s responsibility and would take months to do so.

USADA CEO Travis Tygart, one of WADA’s most ardent critics, also testified, urging Congress to challenge a system in which the International Olympic Committee’s relationship with WADA has turned the organization into “a pet dog rather than a watchdog.”

Officials from WADA, which has appointed an independent prosecutor to investigate the positive tests in China, did not attend the hearing despite being invited by the committee. WADA officials have repeatedly said they did not have sufficient evidence to challenge Chinese anti-doping officials’ findings that 23 positive tests for the drug trimetazidine were accidental ingestions and that they could not investigate in person because of pandemic restrictions in place at the time in China.

In a statement, WADA President Witold Banka said, “Some in the United States are suggesting that WADA has somehow acted improperly or shown bias toward China, when there is no evidence to support this theory.”

He said the 23 positive tests had “become a heated political issue” in the United States.

“WADA understands the tense relationship that exists between the governments of China and the United States and has no right to be a part of it,” Banka further said in the statement.

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