Swimmers warn Olympics ‘are dirtier than ever’

Former Olympic swimmers Nikki Dryden and Alison Wagner have given details at the Web Summit of a new petition they have launched in an effort to clean up international athletics.

Wagner, who lost to Irish swimmer Michelle Smyth at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, referred to the “personal, financial, psychological” damage done to athletes who are beaten by doping competitors. Smyth was banned by swimming body FINA two years after those Olympics for tampering with a urine sample.

“I competed against multiple athletes using PEDs (performance-enhancing drugs), athletes who doped individually.

“At one competition, 12 of 16 gold medals were won by Chinese women who had been trained in a state-sponsored doping regime. One of them tested positive weeks after. Nothing changed: I was never notified of any intention to review of those races.

“In 1996 at Atlanta, I lost to someone who had an anti- doping violation later. Again, I was never notified of any intention to review those medals.

“For those who finish after (them), the effects can be profound - personal, financial, psychological, it can have a big impact. In the 20 years since I was in the Olympics, structures have been put in place to monitor doping but more than half of the drug tests planned for Rio weren’t carried out, because athletes couldn’t be located.

“Nobody wants to watch an Olympics filled with people cheating and taking drugs dangerous to their health. We’re ready for change.”

Wagner added: “The Olympics are dirtier than ever, anti-doping is not being policed, and there are no watchdogs.

“I’ve watched Olympic athletes incur a potential lifetime of negative effects from racing against doped athletes. The Olympics is not the National Football League or the Premier League. Many of the athletes struggle to make ends meet. If you make second or third rather than gold, then it can be the difference between making a career or not.

“I speak out about this because if existing protocols were in place when I competed I’d have a gold medal instead of silver, three more titles and another world record. Nothing’s ever been done about this and it sickens me to see another generation of athletes experience the same thing.”

Nikki Dryden added: “WADA monitors compliance, but the national federations and national anti-doping organisations police that. That’s where the problems start, because there are irregularities between countries, between sports, and athletes are treated differently in different countries.

“The IOC is a secret society, it’s corrupt, there’s no good governance or transparency, and that reaches down to the national federations. In Russia, the head of anti- doping - turned out he developed the three-drug cocktail used by Russian athletes. It reaches down. I think tech can help. It helps fight corruption in public services and could be used in doping and athlete performance.”

Wagner and Dryden are launching a petition aimed at the IOC to address their points on doping. The petition calls on the organisation to uniformly enforce existing anti-doping testing standards and procedures as prescribed in the WADA code; to establish a protocol to review instances of doping and suspected doping for athletes at Olympic Games prior to Sydney 2000; and to enact a policing system to prevent state-sanctioned doping practices, monitor anti-doping efforts, and enforce the WADA code.

The petition can be found here: bit.ly/swimpetition 

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