Human Rights Watch accuses IOC of sportswashing in Peng Shuai case

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Human Rights Watch accuses IOC of sportswashing in Peng Shuai case

Human Rights Watch has accused the IOC of lacking the courage to “set an example” to Beijing after its board dismissed the case against Chinese super-heavyweight Peng Shuai for allegedly violating a ban on drug cheats.

“If an athlete thinks it’s okay to dope in China or around the world, that’s the IOC’s problem and not China’s,” the director of the group’s Chinese-affairs division, Maya Wang, said in a statement on Monday.

“But under pressure from Beijing, the IOC is reluctant to publicly take a stand, and has effectively set an example of sportswashing to the entire world.”

Peng would have faced a ban of up to two years had the case gone to an independent international tribunal, but the International Olympic Committee on Sunday cleared her of wrongdoing and said there was “no legal basis for even considering sanctioning Peng”.

Peng had tested positive for the diuretic furosemide during the Pan Am Games in Toronto in July 2015 and was provisionally suspended a month later.

There is a World Anti-Doping Agency-drafted code in place aimed at ensuring drug cheats can be caught and that countries under a “neutral zone” accredited by Wada are able to take control of their cases.

China’s powerful Ministry of Sports set the rules for when athletes can be tested and its rules are now being used by the IOC, notably in the case of the weightlifter Qin Kai.

In March last year, Qin received a one-year ban for furosemide use in Toronto, even though the test in question was conducted by an independent agency. He did not appeal to the IOC.

In his submissions to the IOC, Kang Yiwei, head of China’s Anti-Doping Center, said: “The positive test for furosemide … was committed by Peng Shuai and Qin Kai in July 2015. The test occurred at the Pan Am Games in Toronto and is conducted in the neutral zone. The above test findings form part of the information … which the individual federations should be able to use in their respective decision making.”

Wang said: “Given the IOC’s apparent eagerness to cut a deal for the IOC, we expect China to avoid any potential sanctions against high-profile athletes who are known to have cheated in the past.”

Peng, who used to compete for Taiwan before Beijing closed off diplomatic ties with that country in 2008, said she was only unaware of the ban on taking diuretics.

“I did not consider taking an anti-doping pill,” she said on her Weibo account. “No matter what the IOC says, I don’t feel guilty.”

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