Kirsty Coventry’s Message In A Comeback: Make Anti-Doping Truly Independent

Kirsty Coventry on her way to a successful defence of her Olympic 200m backstroke crown in Beijing by Patrick B. Kraemer

Message in a comeback: Kirsty Coventry sent word to a WADA Foundation Board meeting this month – “I have no confidence that I will be competing on a level playing field in Rio. We [WADA] market and portray ourselves as te ‘Organization for Clean Sport’ and ‘Protecting Clean Athletes’ but we are not. We either need to get full autonomy and independence to take actions, or we need to stop marketing ourselves as the organization that will get things done.”

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Message in a comeback: Kirsty Coventry sent word to a WADA Foundation Board meeting this month – “I have no confidence that I will be competing on a level playing field in Rio. We [WADA] market and portray ourselves as te ‘Organization for Clean Sport’ and ‘Protecting Clean Athletes’ but we are not. We either need to get full autonomy and independence to take actions, or we need to stop marketing ourselves as the organization that will get things done.”



It’s encouraging to hear the swimmers voice their opinions; the more, the better. Those mentioned above clearly have no confidence in the testing system and the protection it affords to certain athletes. Let’s hear more words of protest from the athletes and coaches.


More power to swimmers like Coventry!


Bravo Kirsty – straight talking. The sooner all drug testing is centralized under WADA and support by the IOC and major sporting federations the sooner we’ll have a half decent chance we have of a level playing field with consistent penalties handed out for transgressors.

If WADA applies a statistical approach then testing rates would be far higher in the current serial offending countries ie Russia, China.

Unfair discrimination certain readers may cry, discrimination yes but certainly not unfair. Simply based on “Fish where the fish are”.

And to quote a controversial American politician, “We’ll make them pay for that increased testing required!”


Thank you for reporting these comments. It is heartening to have been hearing a groundswell of critique against the corruption, inconsistency and incompetence that characterise the fight for cleaner, safer sport. I am cautiously optimistic of some impending signs of positive change, and hopefully some justice.

The athletes rightly point out WADA’s own inefficiency and incompetence in the systemic doping scourge. But I wonder if this is more an issue of WADA having lost of its authority, ability and perhaps will to act. There seems to be numerous individual cases that suggest WADA’s ability to do its job was and actively stalled by some federations, as well as FINA itself, over the past decade.

I think professional decorum, and perhaps some contractual clauses, likely prevented the swimmers from actually naming FINA as the main barrier to cleaner, fairer play in our specific sport of choice, but I nonetheless wish they had.

I would go further. WADA won’t be defended by me–it should prioritize an immediate policy overhaul, and begin to adamantly protect and enforce its powers, through legal means and criminal charges if necessary. But if WADA is an impotent enabler to the shabby cheats, pushers, imposter “doctors” that lurk in the shadows of sport (not to mention those who harbour or support them), FINA has shown itself to be something of an active accomplice, as a trawl through Swimming Vortex’s excellent archive on the subject reminds us.

I welcome any active changes and charges that may be forthcoming from WADA and the IOC but have serious doubts that the functionally moribund institution that currently represents our sport—replete with its ethically bankrupt, self-serving, reactionary, and passive-aggressive set of “leaders”—would be able to self-reform and shape up to WADA’s standards, let alone strive to exceed them. My confidence that FINA has the best interest of the sport in mind remains, sadly, close to zero…almost at IAAF or UCI trust levels.

While I support the thrust and urgency of John Leonard’s Call to Action, clearly his proposed strategy is self-defeating. Given the chance to speak on the subject as a coach, swimmer, sponsor or spokesperson, I would demand an immediate vote of confidence on FINA’s ability to protect the swimming’s integrity BEFORE the Olympics, and an emergency congress of stakeholders: a general strike of sorts. #occupyfina


Those who made between China and Russia in par of doping, you should look at WADA doping report, look at what countries in recent years is “higher in the current serial offending countries”. Positive reports in 2013 and 2014, and Russia with 225 cases and 148 cases, ranking the first. Followed by: Turkey, 188, 72; France’s 108, 91; Italy’s 83, 123; Belgium, 94, 91. Instead, China only 34, 48 cases of these two years, this almost and Australia (35, 49), the United States (43, 34).
It is obvious that Europe is the worst-hit areas of doping. This time to test the urine samples of 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, so far, no Chinese athletes were tested positive.

Craig Lord

ronaham: fair to note that those stats do not reflect history beyond the two years in question; nor do they reflect the specific positive counts in swimming (China has more than 60 of those to its name, and most of those are under-age girls). Not easy to do at a glance, so not a criticism of the facts you present, but it is always good to know ‘for what’ was the positive (on that list are heavy dosages of cannabis, for example, if you look at water polo statistics, say). The ‘what for’, is often quite telling. Also, there are specific places that deserve scrutiny beyond the positive test – if you have 2-3 and even 6 from one program test positive you can be almost sure the whole squad is at it (or had it forced on them) … and that scenario has definitely applied to China, where non-compliance became a habit, whatever the official WADA register may now tell us.


Excuse me for striking a discordant note; and I mean no disrespect to Ms Coventry and the sincerity & validity of her expressed opinion. Indeed, I do not dissent from what she has said.

However, where these statements, and any other rousing call to arms, fall down is that they fall at the first hurdle when faced with reality. And one hard cold reality stands out above others.

Who’s going to be paying the bills ?? You want your policeman to be unquestionably independent …… and that’s fine but who & how is it to be funded …… and how are you going to maintain complete independence from each & every “stakeholder” ?

If you can conclusively answer these points, then you may get somewhere.


Most of the Australian figure comes from one badly advised football team.

Craig Lord

A system of fees and fines is how you pay for it, CW. Condition of Olympic club, relatively simple: the fee structure requires thought; the fines system, too, but essentially If Russia, say, has 20-plus swimming positives on its books as it has in the past decade, that’s 20 substantial fines that the federation must pay. If it cannot or will not pay the fine then whole-nation gone for one Olympic cycle including the Games following the fall (I’d imagine that’s the point at which the state would step in and pay the bill). States, at a time when doping is being criminalised (and that may well be the norm in the future and would have to be if the IOC made that a condition of Olympic membership, too – where there’s a will…) must also contribute. I don’t see that as a system that should affect independence. The legal system in many developed countries is paid for not only by private individuals and private fee structures but by the state… but the state is then not supposed to influence the jury in individual cases just because it is paying the judge. The fee and fines system should operate like a bank: members pay in to the Olympic club account (all transparent) and that is the last they have to do with it beyond the influence that they have in setting anti-doping rules and related system… and that process needs to be wholly transparent, including who votes for what, who said what and when etc.


Craig,Yes, China has a lot of problems in Anti Doping, but I do not agree with the Chinese portrayed as a rogue like russia.Russia is a very serious doping, the event of collapse type, this is even better than democratic Germany in the 80 s and 90 s China swimming is more serious.
As you say a number of positive appeared in a sports or a team, this is indeed a big problem in China’s swimming. Like 3 positive detected in January this year, they are a team, which is obviously a conspiracy or coach forced. But because China is too large and numerous teams, Chinese Swimming Association hard to comprehensive management for them.But the Chinese Swimming Association and the Chinese Olympic Committee can be guaranteed, now Chinese athletes to participate in the world competition is clean, because it closely linked with their positions and official career.China in the new century the world series rarely are detected and review the positive, to prove it.
And the Chinese swimming team now most of the swimming stars are from the Zhejiang swimming team, and this team has a good clean history (in addition to Sun Yang).

Craig Lord

Ronaham, I agree that China’s problem does not look like a state plan 14:25 nor a Russia situation – and the China issues have shifted over the past 30 years. That said, I don’t see the CSA in the same way as I think you suggest. When Sun tested positive, regardless of whether you sit on the side of those who say ‘mistake’ or those who say ‘cheat’, the CSA – an organisation with many very good reasons to have read the book and know the rules inside out – should not have had to have been reminded that something called the WADA Code had been broken and a penalty was an obligation not a choice. The millions that Sun earns in prizes and sponsorship money is substantially shared with the CSA; indeed, Sun is probably their biggest earner (and a very substantial one at that). That is a conflict of interest – and one of the reasons why anti-doping issues should not go through federations, neither domestic nor international.
There are aspects of the Chinese system that remain troubling and those issues are not issues that China has in common with the wider world – they are specific to China (not the same as Russia but the same in terms of issues that are region/program specific).
As for GDR/China and Russia – I rather think that very similar forces have been at play – grown ups sitting round a table agreeing to implement plans that are abusive to athletes (literally), to the rules and spirit of sport and the wider world; pre-meditated cheating on a grand scale that change the result sheet and can have and do have devastating consequences for the individuals under the charge of rogues who ought to be nowhere near children or anyone else in guardian/pupil relationships.


Sorry, Craig but whilst that reads nice on paper; it really needs to be a lot more concrete than that.

I have no issue to the basis of a fee being paid by each nation; as part of the entry price into international competition as long as it is scaled according to “size of the pie”/scope of their international sporting muscle.

Fees yes ? Maybe operate the base fee on an escrow basis, with violations resulting in a multiplier effect until they reach an agreed cut-off point at which suspension is triggered ?

However, what of the international sporting federations ? What of THEIR stake in the pie and their financial contribution ? Rather than be seen to be “double slugging” the nations; perhaps their contributions come from their other revenue streams (ie media rights) ?

However, whether we like it or not, many national testing orgs are funded from the public purse. Whilst most of these have no operational interference from the state; they are still subject to budget cuts thus impacting their operational scope and effectiveness.

Unless these are to be incorporated into the global body, then just how far along the road are we really progressing ?

Craig Lord

Of course the detail needs to be worked our CW – issues far too complex to resolve here 🙂 Relatively simple is the basic idea – the details is not simple but neither need it be overly complicated. Your last question: plenty, the moment you remove the potential for (and actual in some cases in the past, no question) interference, poor and calculated judgment in the process of choices made for testing (what to test for and who to test and when), case handling, judgements, penalties and more, you remove one obvious conflict of interest that runs like a fault line through the system. I agree that the linking of independent national bodies with the international body is an important aspect. Into feds etc should indeed be obliged to contribute (from ring-fenced funds) to the funding of anti-doping; and there are issues to overcome such as ‘where does the intelligence come from to know who to test and when to test them’, including keeping an eye on rankings, performances and trends that can serve as red flags.
P.S: I’m not in favour of having the whole thing simply handed over to WADA – that will not solve some of the existing problems nor will it represent the level of ‘independence’ required.

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