In case of any suspicion of doping in the Olympics, the focus can rapidly shift from the victors of gold, silver, and bronze medals to those who failed to win.

Recently, an undisclosed incident was revealed by The New York Times involving 23 prominent Chinese swimmers who tested positive for a potent prohibited substance in 2021, just months before the Tokyo Olympics. Despite this, the swimmers — constituting roughly half of China’s swimming squad at the Games — were given clearance by Chinese anti-doping authorities and the World Anti-Doping Agency to participate.

This occurrence has not just caused concern among experts in the anti-doping realm, but has also raised queries regarding athletes who were found positive and what happens next: Which athletes? Which competitions?

And what of the honors they attained in those events?

Presently, the status — for both the Chinese competitors and the numerous other swimmers who trailed behind them, whether on or off the podium — remains unchanged.

By cross-referencing the list of the 23 swimmers who tested positive with the results from the Games, The Times pinpointed five competitions in which Chinese swimmers who were caught with a banned substance secured medals:

The fourth-place finisher of the United States, Torri Huske, missed out on securing her first Olympic medal by a mere one-hundredth of a second as Zhang Yufei of China claimed a silver on the first day of the Tokyo Games.

Three days later, Zhang clinched her first gold medal and second overall medal with a record-setting performance in the 200-meter butterfly. Regan Smith and Hali Flickinger of the United States followed behind securing silver and bronze, respectively, more than a second later.

Shortly after her individual gold win, Zhang contributed to China’s relay team triumph, achieving another gold. China recorded a new world-best time, nearly half a second faster than the United States team. The Americans, despite breaking the previous world record, had to settle for silver.

Wang Shun, becoming only the second Chinese male swimmer to clinch an individual gold, achieved victory in the 200-meter individual medley.

Britain established a new world record in triumphing in the mixed relay, a debutant event in the Olympics. China managed to secure the silver by edging out Australia, securing Zhang’s last medal in the Tokyo Games.

The Chinese anti-doping authorities and the World Anti-Doping Agency, the global body overseeing national drug-testing systems, stood by their decisions regarding the handling of the case concerning the pre-Olympic doping incidents in statements provided to The Times recently.

China acknowledged the positive test results and informed WADA. However, in a report compiled by China’s anti-doping agency and discreetly submitted before the Olympics, Chinese authorities claimed that their investigators had determined that the swimmers unintentionally ingested minuscule amounts of the banned substance, warranting no action.

WADA, citing insufficient evidence to dispute China’s narrative, defended its choice to not pursue further measures. It dismissed any unproven criticisms, despite adopting a more stringent stance in a subsequent case involving a Russian figure skater.

In that particular instance, Russia saw a team gold medal revoked, and various nations have lodged appeals to enhance their own placements.

The International Olympic Committee abstained from commenting on the positive tests, emphasizing that “anti-doping issues have been separated from the I.O.C.”, and redirected inquiries to WADA.

With the anti-doping agency vehemently asserting that it acted appropriately and within its guidelines, there seems to be no indication of any alterations to race results or medal redistribution.