Swimming greats Michael Phelps and Allison Schmitt to testify to Congress about anti-doping challenges at Olympics

WASHINGTON — Former Olympian swimming greats Michael Phelps and Allison Schmitt will testify in prime time next week on Capitol Hill on the need for strong anti-doping measures in the upcoming Paris Olympic games, NBC News has learned.

The hearing, hosted by a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee and titled “Examining Anti-Doping Measures in Advance of the 2024 Olympics,” comes amid an outcry in the swimming community over a New York Times report that 23 Chinese swimmers had tested positive for a banned heart medication months before the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

The athletes were cleared to compete after Chinese officials concluded the positive tests were the result of contamination, and the world’s top anti-doping regulator chose not to intervene. Several who tested positive won medals in Tokyo, and some of those swimmers are expected to compete in Paris. 

The public hearing is set for 7 p.m. on June 25.

“Olympic athletes dedicate years of their lives to perfect their craft in order to represent the United States on the world stage. They — as well as athletes from every other country — deserve to compete on a level playing field that’s free of banned performance enhancing drugs,” Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., chair of the committee’s Oversight and Investigations subcommittee, said in a joint statement.

“The World Anti-Doping Agency, the governing body responsible for enforcing fair standards, has a questionable track record of fulfilling that mission,” the lawmakers added. “This hearing will give Members a chance to examine that track record, identify opportunities for improvement, and ensure that the best athletes are the ones taking home gold medals.”

With his 28 Olympic medals, including 23 gold medals, Phelps is the most decorated Olympian ever. Schmitt won 10 Olympic medals over four Olympic games.

In addition to Phelps and Schmitt, Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, is expected to testify at the hearing. Witold Bańka, president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, has been invited to testify but has not accepted.

NBC News is a division NBCUniversal, which owns the U.S. media rights to the Olympic Games through 2032, including the 2024 Paris Games which begin on July 26.

The Energy and Commerce Committee isn’t the only congressional panel scrutinizing the doping allegations against Chinese athletes.

Last month, the bipartisan leaders of the House select committee investigating the Chinese Communist Party sent a letter calling on the Justice Department and International Olympic Committee to launch an investigation into the World Anti-Doping Agency’s decision to allow Chinese swimmers to participate in the 2021 Games after the positive drug tests.

Chinese investigators acknowledged the positive tests but said they were the result of contaminated food from a hotel where some of the athletes were staying. The World Anti-Doping Agency has defended its decision not to take action, and pointed to the fact that Covid-19 lockdowns at the time made it untenable for WADA scientists and investigators to probe the matter “on the ground in China.”

WADA called media reports about the episode “misleading.”

“Ultimately, we concluded that there was no concrete basis to challenge the asserted contamination,” WADA’s senior director of science and medicine Olivier Rabin said in a statement in April.

Several of the swimmers who tested positive won medals in Tokyo, including three golds, The New York Times said.

Three of the Chinese swimmers who tested positive before the 2021 Games had also tested positive for a powerful steroid years earlier, the the Times reported Friday.