Swimming Australia head coach Rohan Taylor says Australia’s swimmers have to focus on themselves and not let the latest doping controversy surrounding Chinese swimmers affect their preparation for the Paris Olympic Games.

In April, the New York Times reported that 23 Chinese swimmers had tested positive for a banned drug ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics but were still allowed to compete, reports confirmed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

WADA accepted China’s findings the adverse findings were due to substance contamination, but later said it would launch an independent review.

On Friday though, the New York Times released a report saying that three of those 23 swimmers had also tested positive for another banned substance, clenbuterol, in 2016 and 2017.

The New York Times report alleges that of the three athletes who tested positive for  clenbuterol — a substance popular for its anabolic effects and reduction of subcutaneous fat — two went on to win Olympic gold in Tokyo.

Speaking during the Australian Swimming Trials, Taylor said he and his swimmer had to trust that the process was being followed correctly 

“I think for us, internally, we can only control what we can control,” he said on Saturday.

“The narrative is quite clear and that’s all we can do. 

“We have to trust that WADA and World Aquatics are going to continue to investigate and that we are aligned with a clean sport.

“That’s where we’re at at the moment and we’ll continue to monitor that, but as far as it’s distracting us in competition, I think it’s not a controllable thing for us. 

“For it to be a distraction, I think it’s probably a waste of energy. 

“We just continue to work with Swimming Australia, we work with World Aquatics and, push along that with other countries, to get it right.”

Taylor added that he “hopes” that every athlete in the pool in Paris will be clean.

WADA said the three athletes in question were found to have “levels of clenbuterol so low that they were between six and 50 times lower than the minimum reporting level” that is in place today.

REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

WADA boss Olivier Niggli defended his organisation’s handling of the issue.(Reuters: Denis Balibouse)

It attributed the positive tests to contaminated meat.

“They were elite level swimmers who were tested on a very frequent basis in a country where meat contamination with clenbuterol is widespread,” WADA director general Olivier Niggli said in a statement.

“It is hardly surprising that they could be among the hundreds of athletes who also tested positive for tiny amounts of the substance.”

Taylor said that his athletes were entitled to their own opinions about the controversy, but he would be stressing the importance of not getting preoccupied by things they can’t control.

“I do know that the conversations that I have with the team and will have with the team is about controlling what we can control,” he said.

“If they have their own personal opinion, that I’ve got no problems with. They can express that themselves. It’s not for me to talk about that.

“I look at it as, we’re going in and competing. If somebody’s not doing the right thing, we we hope the system catches them and that’s basically how we work, because our guys get tested all the time too, so we’re in the same boat.”

The latest New York Times report threatened to further inflame a public spat between WADA and US anti-doping authorities.

The United States Olympic swimming trials are set to get underway in Indianapolis on Saturday, just as Australia’s own trials concludes in Brisbane,

American seven-times Olympic gold medallist Katie Ledecky previously said that her confidence in the anti-doping system was at an all-time low ahead of the Paris Games starting next month.

ABC Sport will be live blogging every day of the Paris Olympics from July 27 (Australian time).

Sports content to make you think… or allow you not to. A newsletter delivered each Saturday.

with Reuters

dan