Administration

Cotton warns of China collecting athletes’ DNA at 2022 Olympics

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.)
Greg Nash

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Tuesday urged the Biden administration to ensure protections for U.S. athletes competing in the 2022 Winter Olympics, warning about China potentially trying to collect athletes’ DNA, among other concerns.

The senator detailed his concerns in a letter to President Biden that requested more information on how the U.S. will prepare for next year’s games in Beijing, saying the 2022 Olympics will pose “unique challenges for the safety, security, and privacy of Americans who attend.”

Cotton, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote that China “considers DNA collection a vital intelligence-gathering objective,” warning that officials should be aware of potential Chinese government efforts to obtain samples from athletes.

“In 2022, thousands of world-class athletes will gather to compete in China. Their DNA will present an irresistible target for the [Chinese Communist Party],” Cotton wrote. “Thus, we should expect that the Chinese government will attempt to collect genetic samples of Olympians at the Games, perhaps disguised as testing for illegal drugs or COVID-19.”

Cotton, speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday, called for the U.S. to boycott the Beijing Olympics unless “the safety, security and privacy of our athletes” is guaranteed. 

The GOP senator in his letter noted China’s “invasive domestic surveillance system” and also warned of U.S. Olympic members who attend the Beijing games being “subject to arbitrary detention in China, particularly those who have spoken out” against China on a range of issues.

Cotton is an outspoken China hawk and was an early backer of the theory that the novel coronavirus emerged from a lab in Wuhan, China, as opposed to animal-to-human transmission, a position held by many scientists.

His letter follows similar calls from advocacy groups earlier this year urging global governments to boycott the Beijing Olympics over reported human rights violations.

The Hill has reached out to the State Department and the White House for comment on Cotton’s letter.

Tags 2022 Winter Olympics Beijing China Joe Biden Tom Cotton
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