'Doping a part of sport': Meares keeps faith in WADA

Australian Olympic Team team chef de mission Anna Meares has backed the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) after an independent investigation cleared them over the Chinese swimming controversy.

While Meares said on Wednesday she had not read the report, she reinforced her confidence in WADA ahead of the Paris Games.

The investigation, led by Swiss prosecutor Eric Cottier, cleared WADA of mishandling the case, where 23 Chinese swimmers had tested positive for banned substances but still competed at the Tokyo Olympics.

"I think it's going to take some time to digest this report. It has only just come out," Meares said on Wednesday ahead of leaving for the French capital.

"I haven't read it but I have read some of the (news) reports of the information in it.

"I do have confidence that they (WADA) follow the right process and that confidence should spread through the athletes. Absolutely."

The swimmers were allowed to compete at the Games held in 2021 after WADA accepted Chinese findings that the athletes tested positive for trimetazidine (TMZ), a medication that increases blood flow to the heart, because of a contamination in a team hotel kitchen.

Cottier's investigation reached a similar conclusion, finding no irregularities on the part of WADA's review of the China Anti-Doping Agency decision and that it had covered all relevant issues in determining whether or not to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Asked whether the doping scandal would continue to cast a shadow over the Games, Meares drew from her cycling career.

"I know that doping is a part of sport. We have to understand doping is a part of sport," the two-time Olympic track gold medallist said.

"I, in my time, never wanted to speak when a cyclist went positive because I'm like, 'that's not part of me. That's not part of what I have done in my career'.

"But I realised that we still look for champions of clean sport and so we have to have spokespeople for it.

"I like that people are getting caught - that means sport is staying as clean as it can be. It's not an easy thing to do and the bodies in place are working really hard to be able to keep it clean.

"You have to have faith in the system and you have to believe in the process and the transparency of it."

The drug controversy has hung over world swimming on the road to Paris, with Meares open to Australian athletes expressing their opinions about the report as long as they did so away from the podium and field of play.

"I don't have any concerns with Australian athletes voicing their opinion about it," she said.

"If they have an opinion and they want to share it, they're welcome to.

"There are lots of places where they can do that: social media, talking to (journalists) in the media zone.

"The two places that athletes agreed upon that protest and voice wouldn't be used was on the podium and on the field of play."

With Reuters.

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