Travis Tygart

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Michael Phelps to testify at congressional anti-doping hearing

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Michael Phelps is one of five witnesses called to testify at a congressional hearing looking at ways to improve the international anti-doping system in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

Phelps will be joined by:

Adam Nelson, 2004 U.S. Olympic shot put champion
Travis Tygart, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO
Dr. Richard Budgett, IOC Medical and Scientific Director
Rob Koehler, World Anti-Doping Agency Deputy Director General

The list was first reported by USA Today  and confirmed Wednesday night.

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations is examining the state of the international anti-doping system, challenges it faces and ways it can be improved before the 2018 Olympics.

“The Olympic Games represent the greatest athletes in the world, and we want to preserve the integrity of competition, and ensure clean sport,” subcommittee chairman Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) said in a press release. “This will be an important discussion to protect the revered distinction both the Olympics Games and their world class athletes hold.”

None of Phelps’ major results — 28 Olympic medals, 33 World Championships medals — have been impacted by the known doping of others.

But in Rio, he praised teammate Lilly King‘s criticisms of athletes competing who had previously served doping punishments. Phelps doubted he had ever competed in a clean sport.

“I think you’re going to probably see a lot of people speaking out more,” Phelps said in Rio, according to The Associated Press. “I think [King] is right, I think something needs to be done. It’s kind of sad today in sports in general, not just in swimming, there are people who are testing positive who are allowed back in the sport and multiple times. It kind of breaks what sport is meant to be and that’s what pisses me off.”

Nelson originally took silver in the 2004 Olympic shot put. Nine years later, he was upgraded to gold after Ukraine’s Yuriy Bilonog was stripped for doping. He received his gold medal at an Atlanta airport food court, reportedly at a table in front of a Chinese restaurant.

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VIDEO: Phelps plays raucous 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale

USADA CEO: Report could justify Russia’s exclusion from Rio

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A report on Russian doping due out this week is expected to include details about the country’s sports ministry telling its drug-testing officials which positive tests to report and which to conceal. If those details do, indeed, show up in the report, the leader of the U.S. anti-doping effort says nothing short of removing the Russian flag from this summer’s Olympics would suffice.

Travis Tygart, the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, told The Associated Press he would support the same sort of action for all Russian sports that track’s governing body, the IAAF, took regarding the country’s track team: It barred the team but gave a small number of athletes who could prove they were clean a chance to compete under a neutral flag.

“If it’s proven true, and there’s been intentional subversion of the system by the Russian government … the only outcome is they can’t participate in these Olympic Games under that country’s flag,” Tygart said.

The World Anti-Doping Agency commissioned an investigation, being headed by Richard McLaren, into Russian doping following a New York Times story in May that detailed a state-run system that helped athletes get away with cheating and win medals at the Sochi Olympics in 2014. The McLaren report is due Friday, with public release set for next Monday.

An earlier investigation, headed by former WADA chairman Dick Pound, looked into Russian doping inside the track team; the McLaren investigation is expected to delve into all sports.

In June, based on information from Pound’s report and its own follow-up, the IAAF barred Russia’s track team from competing in the Olympics after deciding it had not moved aggressively enough on widespread reforms.

In announcing the decision, the IAAF issued a report that included preliminary findings from McLaren stating evidence showed a “mandatory state-directed manipulation of laboratory analytical results operating within” the Moscow anti-doping lab from at least 2011 through the summer of 2013.

The preliminary findings also said Russia’s “Ministry of Sport advised the laboratory which of its adverse findings it could report to WADA, and which it had to cover up.”

If those preliminary findings show up in the full report, and turn out to be just the tip of the iceberg, it would represent “an unprecedented level of criminality,” Tygart said.

Tygart previewed the findings to leaders of USA Track and Field at a meeting during Olympic Trials last weekend. There, Tygart said, “what we see now is what happened in East Germany” in the 1970s and ’80s, when doping in the Eastern Bloc went virtually unchecked.

He told USATF leaders: “You have to send a message to states that corrupt the Games. I don’t want to pre-judge the report but indications are that that’s what’s going to be in there.”

USADA chairman Edwin Moses, the gold-medal-winning and world-record-setting hurdler from the 1970s and ’80s, reiterated that point to the USATF.

“If an athlete is going to get sanctioned for two, four, eight years, then certainly the same should happen for any federation or agency or administrators who are involved,” he said.

Shortly after the Times report came out, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach wrote an op-ed piece in USA Today saying that if allegations in the Times story were true, the IOC would “react with its record of proven zero-tolerance policy, not only with regard to individual athletes, but to all their entourage within its reach.”

“Should there be evidence of an organized system contaminating other sports, the international federations and the IOC would have to make the difficult decision between collective responsibility and individual justice,” Bach wrote.

On July 21, the Court of Arbitration for Sport will rule on the eligibility of 68 Russian track athletes who claim they should be able to compete despite the IAAF ban. Still undecided is whether the IOC will allow cleared Russian athletes to compete as neutral, or under the Russian flag.

If the McLaren report is as damning as expected, the IOC and international leaders in the 27 other Summer Olympic sports will have to come up with plans on similar issues on a limited timeframe: Friday marks the three-week countdown to the Rio Games.

Rich Bender, the executive director of USA Wrestling, said he had full confidence in the leadership of his sport’s international federation to handle the situation correctly.

“The international federation has a significant responsibility to do everything in its power to make sure that happens,” Bender said. “If you start making exceptions and compromising positions there, it weakens the statement that doping isn’t tolerated.”

MORE: Russia Olympic doping probe results coming Monday

USA Swimming, USADA to press FINA on doping issues

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Actively seeking to avoid the kind of doping scandal engulfing track and field, USA Swimming is teaming up with the man who brought down Lance Armstrong.

U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart will join former USA Swimming president Jim Wood for a meeting with FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu in Lausanne, Switzerland, next month to check in on the anti-doping actions of the sport’s governing body.

“This is an effort to see if we can understand what’s going on and maybe why certain decisions were made the way they were,” USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus told The Associated Press on Wednesday in a telephone interview from his office in Colorado.

Unlike with the IAAF and the ongoing corruption scandal at FIFA, though, there is no explicit concern about the people in charge.

“We’ve been extremely supportive of FINA’s leadership,” Wielgus said. “(Marculescu) was very quick to agree to a meeting so we were very pleased by that. We saw that as a very positive response.”

The concern lies with the way doping cases involving China’s Sun Yang, Australia’s Kylie Palmer and Russia’s Yuliya Efimova were handled.

USA Swimming wants to ensure the likes of Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky compete against only clean athletes at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“There are two great concerns we have about the Rio Games. One is that there is clean competition. And No. 2 is that the water is clean for open water swimmers,” Wielgus said, adding that water quality will not be discussed in the meeting with Marculescu.

Sun, the gold medalist in the 400- and 1,500-meter freestyle at the London Olympics, served a three-month doping suspension last year for using a banned stimulant. His punishment began immediately after he tested positive in May 2014, but Chinese officials kept the test quiet for six months and FINA also waited until late November to announce the sanction.

Sun was then named male swimmer of the meet at the World Championships in Kazan, Russia, in August.

Palmer, a member of the Australian 4×200-meter freestyle relay team which won gold at the 2008 Beijing Games, tested positive for low levels of a banned masking agent at the 2013 worlds in Barcelona, but she was not notified of the failed test until earlier this year.

Palmer denied taking performance-enhancing drugs but she accepted a provisional suspension, ruling her out of the Kazan worlds. Then FINA’s doping tribunal issued Palmer with only a reprimand and warning in September, allowing her to resume her bid to compete in Rio.

Efimova, meanwhile, returned in March from a 16-month ban after testing positive for the banned steroid DHEA. She maintained that she ingested the steroid in a nutritional supplement. The Los Angeles-based swimmer said her English was poor enough that she didn’t notice that the banned substance was written on the package of the supplement.

FINA accepted that Efimova wasn’t intending to gain a performance boost and decided not to give her the standard ban of two years, which would have ruled her out of her home worlds. She won the 100 breaststroke in Kazan.

Tygart, whose detailed report led to Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, has been reviewing these and other cases.

“It’s fair to say that those things got our attention and we wondered what went wrong in some of the decision-making,” Wielgus said. “Those are things we’ll talk about with Cornel but more important than that is pushing forward. Understanding some of the past mistakes is important but making sure the system is in place so those things don’t happen again is even more important.”

John Leonard, executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association and its American member organization ASCA, has been severely critical of FINA’s anti-doping efforts.

“USA Swimming does not share John’s view,” Wielgus said.

Following the World Anti-Doping Agency commission’s report of Russia’s state-sponsored doping in track and field last month, FINA announced that it was transferring all 645 drug samples taken at the Kazan worlds from Moscow’s laboratory to the WADA facility in Barcelona.

No positives have been detected from Kazan and there are no plans to re-test the samples.

“Unless there is some special issue there is no reason to re-test,” Marculescu told the AP, adding that the initial tests were carried out before observers from labs in Barcelona and London.

USA Swimming’s top request for FINA is to explore establishing an independent body to control anti-doping efforts — along the lines of IOC President Thomas Bach‘s proposal last month that testing be turned over to an independent unit within WADA.

But when pressed for details on how an independent anti-doping body could operate, Wielgus did not have an immediate answer.

“It always gets back to money,” he said. “Doesn’t it?”

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