Are the Olympic Games Fair?

Are the Olympic Games Fair? 4On July 26, the 2024 Summer Olympic Games are set to begin in Paris.

These competitions provide countries from all over the world the opportunity to showcase their best athletes.

The United States holds an illustrious record in the Games. Most recently in Tokyo, the United States placed first in medals won (113) as well as gold medals (39).

In Tokyo, most aspiring Olympic athletes played by the rules and worked their tails off to perfect their craft.

Unfortunately, this can’t be said of every athlete.

Earlier this year, the New York Times broke news of twenty-three Chinese swimmers who tested positive for banned performance-enhancing substances before the Tokyo Games.

Despite this revelation, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) cleared the swimmers to compete in the Tokyo Games and didn’t inform the rest of the athletes!

Five of those swimmers had a medal finish.

Subsequently, eleven of those twenty-three were selected to participate in this year’s Paris Games too.

Doping in sports has prompted bipartisan Congressional attention before. In 2017, the Oversight Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee launched a hearing to discuss ways to strengthen the international anti-doping system.

Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated athlete in Olympic history with a record twenty-eight medals, was a witness at that 2017 hearing.

During that hearing, Phelps emphasized: “If we allow our confidence in fair play to erode, we will undermine the power of sport and the goals and dreams of future generations.”

Some changes were made at WADA.

Now as Chairman of the Subcommittee, I asked Phelps to return and he agreed to testify again because the earlier changes were ineffective. I held a hearing on June 25th to discuss WADA and things Congress can do to help ensure a level playing field.

Accompanying Phelps as a witness to this hearing was U.S. swimmer Allison Schmitt. Although not as world-famous as Phelps, she won ten Olympic medals (4 gold) in her career. Wow!

The Chinese doping scandal is a deeply personal issue for Schmitt. She missed out on another Olympic gold medal at the Tokyo Games. In the 800-meter freestyle relay, her team placed 2nd to the Chinese. Some of those Chinese competitors are a part of the list of twenty-three who failed their drug test.

Also in attendance at the hearing was U.S. Olympic swimmer, Allison Wagner. Although she was not a witness for the hearing, she finished 2nd in the 1996 400-meter individual medley. The gold medalist from that race, an Irish swimmer, was suspected to be a user of performance-enhancing drugs.

During the hearing, it became clear that doping issues partly stem from inconsistency in testing athletes.

I advocated a simple solution. Investigations should be performed in the same manner and that every violator receives the same punishment, regardless of nationality.

Phelps concurred with the idea and cited one year where he was tested over one 150 times, while other Olympic delegations received only thirty or forty tests.

Schmitt went into graphic detail of her tests, an uncomfortable and awkward reality (see the June 25th hearing recording, 1:02:18).

But she acknowledged that this is what she signed up for. And others should be held to the same standard to keep the sport clean.

The witnesses railed against WADA for not showing up to support athletes.

Travis Tygart, head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), testified WADA – which consists of a former member of China’s Olympic Committee – should not allow individuals from various national Olympic Committees to serve on WADA.

It would have been nice to make recommendations in-person to WADA. However, WADA decided not to accept the Subcommittee’s invitation to testify!

Earlier in June, WADA also declined to testify to the German Bundestag (parliament).

This demonstrates to me that WADA is not interested in addressing anti-doping concerns. Moreover, it calls into question WADA’s commitment to provide a level playing field for all athletes.

If there is no responsible authority to enforce equal and fair measures, how can Olympians trust the outcomes of competitions?

How can athletes put their faith into a system that is subjected to abuse by cheaters?

As the biggest contributor to WADA (nearly $3.7 million this year), the United States should reevaluate the funds we send them.

NBC, which has a $7.5 billion contract with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and other sponsors could also exercise influence to promote clean competition.

Phelps and Schmitt have represented their country admirably. I am determined to see reform as future generations aspire to compete at the Olympic Games.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.

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