From Australia to America, the newest revelation by The New York Times on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s alleged mishandling of doping cases from China’s swimming team has sparked varied levels of outrage, be it from officials, coaches or the athletes themselves.

Seven-time gold medallist Katie Ledecky, who will be participating in her fourth Olympic Games this Summer in Paris 2024, spoke loud and clear two weeks ago, when she said that faith in anti-doping measures was "at an all-time low".

That was after WADA had originally come under intense scrutiny following revelations back in April of its awareness of positive test results by 23 athletes from the Chinese swimming team and not taking decisive action to prevent them from participating in the Tokyo 2021 Games. The controversial reports by The New York Times and German broadcaster ARD detailed then that the swimmers had registered traces of a banned substance, trimetazidine, a prescription heart drug which can enhance performance, in the lead-up to said Olympics. Despite these findings, they were allowed to compete and win medals, raising suspicions of preferential treatment or oversight failures. Many of the same swimmers are currently set to compete at the 2024 Summer Games.

“It’s hard going into Paris knowing that we’re going to be racing some of these athletes. I’d like to see some accountability here,” Ledecky complained. “I’d like to see some answers as to why this happened the way it did. And I’d really like to see that steps are taken for the future so that we can regain some confidence in the global system.”

Ledecky’s public disappointment also came before the American newspaper pointed out on Friday that this was not a one-time deal for WADA. According to its latest report, three of those athletes who failed drug tests before the 2021 Olympics had tested positive for a powerful steroid, clenbuterol, several years earlier and did not receive a suspension either. They included two 2021 Olympic gold medallists and a current world-record holder, who failed drug tests in 2016 and 2017.

Ledecky’s USA teammate Lilly King did not mince words when addressing this alleged repeat offense by WADA and called the news "disappointing and frustrating" as the sport gears up for its ultimate showcase at the Paris Olympics. "It's extremely frustrating for the athletes to always have in the back of our mind that maybe this sport's not fair," the 100m breaststroke world record-holder said on Friday. "You know, when we put everything on the line, our privacy, really, everything that we do to compete with a level playing field, it's extremely frustrating to not have faith that others are doing the same thing."

Lilly King felt
Lilly King felt "disappointed and frustrated" by the latest NY Times reports. GETTY IMAGES

King admitted she no-doubt felt distracted by the whole imbroglio while trying to centre her full attention in her country’s Olympic trials in Indiana, struggling to do so. "Those thoughts are always in the back of my mind," she insisted.

Back on the other side of the world, Australia's head swimming coach Rohan Taylor opted for a different approach and urged his Olympic team not to get distracted by the doping scandal, deeming such reactions "a waste of energy".

The Times specified on Friday that the athletes tested positive for clenbuterol before and after the Rio 2026 Olympics and that Chinese authorities argued that the trio ingested that substance inadvertently through contaminated meat. WADA fired back at the American newspaper that same day, calling its coverage of the positive tests case “sensationalist and inaccurate”.

Australia's Rohan Taylor considers the WADA distraction a
Australia's Rohan Taylor considers the WADA distraction a "waste of time". GETTY IMAGES

The back-and-forth by the international policing body, American media, the United States Anti-Doping agency and athlete-led pressure groups has been a constant since the reports first surfaced in April, but the Times’ most recent revelations have added fuel to the fire that was already burning within USADA and Global Athlete, among other associations.

Taylor insisted it was not worth it for Australian athletes to waste time on the subject. "I think for us, internally, we can only control what we can control," he told ABC at Australia's Olympic trials on Saturday. "The narrative is quite clear and that's all we can do. We have to trust that WADA and World Aquatics are going to continue to investigate and that we are aligned with a clean sport. That's where we're at the moment and we'll continue to monitor that, but as far as it's distracting us in competition, I think it's not a controllable thing for us. For it to be a distraction, I think it's probably a waste of energy."

From coast to coast, opinions varied, from Taylor’s insistence con refocusing to King’s anger, disappointment and frustration or the United States Anti-Doping chief executive Travis Tygart’s consideration that “unbelievable does not seem fitting enough” regarding the most recent news reports.