Five positive drugs tests involving Chinese swimmers that were allegedly covered up are now the subject of an investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Britain’s Times newspaper reported Thursday.

The revelations came after WADA had announced on Wednesday it was looking into a possible doping scandal in Russian swimming following a previous Times report.

According to The Times, whistleblowers within Chinese swimming approached the newspaper alleging that five tests had been hidden to avoid a storm before the Olympic trials next month and asked the newspaper to pass the information to WADA which is now investigating. 

Two of the tests are believed to have been failed in October and the other three at the turn of the year.

The Times said Chinese whistleblowers were unable to contact WADA because of state surveillance.

It quoted an “intermediary of a source” saying: “People in Chinese swimming really want WADA to ask for the truth to be told. Our pools are awash with rumours of bad things. There’s a lot of fear.”

The Times report came amid suggestions from within China, who finished second in the swimming medals table at the 2012 Olympics in London, that a controversial coach, who had been banned for life because of doping offences, was working again with the nation’s swimmers in the city of Tianjin.

Zhou Ming was behind the 1990s Chinese doping crisis, when more than 45 teenagers tested positive, mostly for banned substances in the highest category of offence.

He was banned for life by the Chinese and the world governing body in 1998 during the World Championships but was seen again poolside in China in 2005.

When informed of the investigation by The Times, the boards of the World Swimming Coaches Association (WSCA) and American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA) said: “We call on WADA to extend its inquiries to all nations sounding the kind of alarm bells we hear tolling from the likes of Russia and China. 

“Zhou Ming is a name well known to coaches who lived through the crisis of the 1990s. He is a rogue who ought never to be allowed to work with children.”

In November, 17-year-old Qing Wenyi died less than three weeks after claiming both girls’ breaststroke titles at the China Youth Games when she collapsed at a national team camp in Beijing.

The Times added that the doping allegations also had ramifications for Australia, as many Chinese swimmers train in the country.

It quoted Australia’s double Olympic 1,500 metres champion Grant Hackett as saying that he believed some of the Chinese training in Australia had been approached for a sample once in 18 months —- and then only because Swimming Australia pressed the matter.

Wednesday’s edition of The Times alleged that Sergei Portugalov, the doctor said to be the mastermind behind the doping scandal in Russian athletics that means the country is currently banned from international competition, had pushed swimmers on Russia’s national team to take performance-enhancing drugs. – Agence France-Presse

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