House Panel Seeks F.B.I. Investigation Into Doping by Chinese Swimmers

House Panel Seeks F.B.I. Investigation Into Doping by Chinese Swimmers

The House select committee on China has asked the Justice Department and F.B.I. to investigate reports that Chinese authorities covered up positive doping tests for nearly half the swim team it sent to the last Olympic Games and that the global antidoping regulator failed to take action.

In a letter sent late Tuesday, the committee asked that the authorities use a law passed in 2020 in the wake of another doping scandal, involving Russia, that gives the Justice Department the power to criminally prosecute those who help athletes dope at international competitions, regardless of whether the offenses occur on American soil.

“This scandal raises serious legal, ethical and competitive concerns and may constitute a broader state-sponsored strategy by the People’s Republic of China (P.R.C.) to unfairly compete at the Olympic Games in ways Russia has previously done,” the panel’s chairman, Representative John Moolenaar, Republican of Michigan, and its senior Democrat, Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, said in a letter to Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray.

The letter could put additional political pressure on the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation to ratchet up scrutiny of China’s athletic program and the organization responsible for policing the use of banned performance enhancers, the World Anti-Doping Agency, just two months before the 2024 Summer Games in Paris.

The New York Times reported last month that 23 elite Chinese swimmers had tested positive for the same powerful drug months before the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games but were allowed to compete after Chinese officials secretly cleared them of wrongdoing and the antidoping agency, known as WADA, declined take action.

The swimmers went on to win medals in five events at the 2021 games, including three gold. Several of the swimmers are favorites to win medals at the Paris Olympics in July.

The Times reported that the F.B.I. had learned about the positives in the past year and that federal investigators had taken steps to learn more about what occurred. China maintained that the substance that triggered the swimmers’ positive test results came from contaminated food, an explanation that some experts found unlikely if not implausible.

The House panel sent the letter four days after the antidoping agency held a meeting to push back on the claims that it looked the other way after learning of the positive doping tests. WADA’s top officials again defended their decision not to impose sanctions on the Chinese swimmers, and the agency’s president attacked American athletes, saying that 90 percent of them do not even compete under its code.

The bipartisan nature of the letter reflected the broad consensus in Washington about the growing threats posed by China on an array of issues as well as specific concerns among American athletes and coaches about what they see as a pattern of doping by Chinese athletes.

“It is imperative to assess whether these alleged doping practices were state-sponsored, which could warrant further diplomatic measures by the United States and the international community,” Mr. Moolenaar and Mr. Krishnamoorthi said in the letter.

In a separate letter to the International Olympic Committee, the House committee called for an independent investigation into how the positive tests were handled, saying: “How the I.O.C. responds to this scandal will directly affect this summer’s Olympic Games and their promise of fair play that unites athletes from around the globe.”

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