Dick Pound speaks at a Tackling Doping in Sport 2016 conference in London. GETTY IMAGES

The former World Anti-Doping Agency President discussed the fall-out from the Chinese swimmers doping scandal and accused the agency from the other side of the border of seeking to undermine the global body with "lies and distortions".

The Canadian launched a fierce attack on the United States anti-doping officials during Friday’s extraordinary meeting of the WADA Foundation Board, held online, and said he was “disappointed and disgusted”, while American counterpart Travis Tygart fired back. "Today’s meeting further demonstrated that the global anti-doping system is as broken as ever and needs immediate reform. Instead of threats and attacks, we call on WADA to actually lead by taking action and to provide real answers by producing the full China file for the world to evaluate," the USADA president responded.

Tensions between both agencies have been brewing for some time now, but criticism against the global watchdog spiralled in April, following revelations that 23 Chinese swimmers had tested positive for trimetazidine, a substance known to potentially boost performance, prior to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The athletes were neither suspended nor penalised, as WADA acknowledged the explanation provided by Chinese authorities attributing the positive results to food contamination at a hotel where they had lodged.

Global outrage ensued from federations, national anti-doping agencies and athlete-led pressure groups, but it was USADA who spearheaded the charge, with Tygart labelling the handling of the case “a potential cover up”, which escalated the war of words with WADA president Witold Banka, other prominent officials and, now, former bosses.

"On behalf of WADA, I am deeply disappointed and disgusted by the deliberate lies and distortions coming from USADA, including that WADA has swept doping cases in China under the rug," said Pound, a lawyer who was the first president of WADA but retired at the end of 2020. "That accusation, bereft of any truth, has but a single purpose, to deliberately damage the reputation of WADA and to lessen the worldwide trust that has been built up since WADA was created a quarter of a century ago to head up the international fight against doping in sport”.

As has been the case with Banka in previous back-and-forths with Tygart, Pound, who remains an honorary member of the International Olympic Committee, suggested that USADA's actions may have a political dimension. "USADA is financed by the United States government. That government is currently in a chilly relationship with China's government. Could there be a connection?" he asked. "The claim that WADA has in some way inappropriately favoured China is completely false. WADA applies the World Anti-Doping Code and the related standards in an even-handed way," he said.

Even though many have pointed out the case of Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva as a blatant double-standard by WADA, Pound argued its past actions against doping cases in Russia proved that "Superpowers are treated the same way" as other nations.

WADA has asked an independent prosecutor to examine the case and publish a report but Pound urged them to go further. "My suggestion is twofold," he said, directly addressing Banka. "First, to wait for the report of the independent investigator and then to institute legal proceedings claiming significant damages against USADA since there must be serious consequences arising from its outrageous conduct," he said.

Pound noted that China had brought the cases to WADA originally. "What evidence has been produced to suggest that China has benefited in any way? Unlike many other cases in other countries, the Chinese (anti-doping body) reported positive tests in the WADA system. Nothing was hidden", he argued. "The Chinese investigation led to a conclusion of contamination, not doping. The evidence pointed firmly in that direction. None pointed to doping," he said.

Banka, in his opening comments, said that he had been previously attacked by Russian officials and by Chinese fans of Chinese swimmer Sun Yang, who received a doping ban and suggested that proved WADA was independent. He also took aim at USADA. "There are gaps in harmonising anti-doping policy globally...including in the United States, where the great majority of these unsubstantiated and defamatory attacks have been coming from," said Banka. "In the U.S, 90 per cent of American athletes, those in the professional leagues and college sport, do not compete under the World Anti-Doping Code. 31 per cent of American athletes under the code, were not sufficiently tested in the 12-month period prior to the Tokyo Games, according to the data which is available to us," he added.

USADA's own statement left little room for de-escalation between both agencies, as Tygart accused WADA of "trying to kill the messenger" and harped on the same tune that has been ringing loudly through the sporting world since news of the Chinese doping scandal first broke. "As predicted, WADA is much better at circling the wagons than they are at actually being transparent. The fact is that WADA leaders violated their own rules by, at a minimum, not finding any violations or publicizing the cases. This is self-evident, no matter how many times or how angrily WADA denies it and replays its scripted efforts to convince the world everything is okay," he concluded.