Science

China’s Swimmers Tested Positive. What Happens to Their Medals?

Whenever a suspicion of doping arises in an Olympics, attention can shift quickly from the athletes who won gold, silver and bronze medals to the ones who missed out.

On Saturday, The New York Times published an investigation into an unreported case in which 23 top Chinese swimmers tested positive for a powerful banned drug in 2021, only months before the Tokyo Olympics. The swimmers — who made up about half of the Chinese swimming team at those Games — were cleared by China’s antidoping authorities and the World Anti-Doping Agency and allowed to compete.

The episode has not only alarmed experts in the antidoping community, but also raised other questions about athletes who tested positive, and what comes next: Which athletes? Which races?

And what about the medals they won in them?

For now, the answer — both for the Chinese athletes and the dozens of swimmers who finished behind them, on and off the medals stand — is that nothing has changed.

By comparing the names of the 23 swimmers who tested positive with results from the Games, The Times identified five events in which Chinese swimmers who had tested positive for a banned substance won medals:

Women’s 100-meter butterfly

The third day of the Tokyo Games opened with the first of four medals for Zhang Yufei, a silver. Torri Huske of the United States was fourth, missing out on the first Olympic medal of her career by one-hundredth of a second.

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