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China admits 6 positive tests in swimming; denies cover-up

Swimming pool

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 01: A general view of the pool during the night session of swimming on Day 5 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre on August 1, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

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BEIJING (AP) — China’s anti-doping agency said Thursday it has recorded six recent positive drugs tests by Chinese swimmers.

The agency confirmed the cases to The Associated Press after the British newspaper The Times reported it had been approached by whistleblowers in Chinese swimming who claimed that five positive tests had been kept secret.

Zhao Jian, deputy director of the Chinese agency known as CHINADA, said it had recorded three positive tests, all for clenbuterol, in late August and early September. The swimming federation will soon issue punishments in those cases and the results will be made known, he said.

Zhao said there have also been three positive tests since the beginning of 2016, all in January, but those remain under investigation and will be publicized within 20 days of punishments being issued in accordance with WADA regulations. He said the World Anti-Doping Agency has been kept informed about all positive tests.

Names of the swimmers have not been released.

The Times story said whistleblowers approached the paper to “avoid a storm” before China’s Olympic trials next month and asked the paper to pass the information to WADA, which it said is now investigating.

“Since the very beginning, China has never covered up any positive doping tests,” Zhao said. “I am not sure what (the paper) really referred to and the report was vague. So there has not been such a sensational thing such as a cover-up and it is not true.”

The Times also reported that coach Zhou Ming had been working with swimmers in Tianjin. Zhou was banned by world governing body FINA in 1998 after overseeing the scandal at the World Championships in Perth, Australia, when four swimmers tested positive and vials of human growth hormone were discovered in a swimmer’s bag by Australian customs.

The Chinese swimming federation declined to comment on the Times’ article.

On Wednesday, WADA said it would study allegations by the Times of widespread doping in Russian swimming.

Some of the claims were linked to sports doctor Sergei Portugalov, who WADA wants banned for life after his role in a doping conspiracy in track and field was detailed in November. That WADA-commissioned inquiry led to Russia’s track team being banned from international events.

“There is no doubt that today’s disturbing assertions of orchestrated doping in Russian swimming should be scrutinized,” WADA President Craig Reedie said in a statement.

FINA said Wednesday it had no “concrete evidence” of systemic doping in Russia and called on the Times to share its evidence. It pledged to investigate any allegations “substantiated by evidence and which have not already been addressed.”

MORE: FINA asks newspaper for Russia swimming doping evidence