For many, the last country to raise an allegation of drug doping would be China — a country repeatedly accused of cheating on everything from the ages of gymnasts to the doping of athletes. Drilling down a bit further, the last Chinese official to raise such an allegation would be China’s Chen Zhanghao who, according to one of China’s reporters “is arguably tainted by his own role in sports doping in the ’80s and ’90s.” Yet in the wake of questions raised by China’s Ye Shiwen’s record performance, it was Chen Zhanghao who went public with the suggestion that Michael Phelps must have been drugged up to win so many gold medals.
There is a slight difference of course. China’s Ye Shiwen timed 58.68sec in the last 100 meters of her race — matching US winner Ryan Lochte’s time in the men’s competition. Various swimming experts called the performance either “impossible” or “suspicious.”
John Leonard, executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association, said that it was simply “impossible”. Adding that the “last 100m was reminiscent of some old East German swimmers, for people who have been around a while. It was reminiscent of the 400m individual medley by a young Irish woman in Atlanta.” That was a reference to Michelle de Bruin who was a triple gold-medallist at the 1996 Games before being banned for four years in 1998 for tampering with a urine sample.
One thing working against the swimmer is her country’s dismal record of false reporting and drugging vis-a-vis athletes.
Leonard said that he has little doubt: “the final 100m was impossible. Flat out. If all her split times had been faster I don’t think anybody would be calling it into question, because she is a good swimmer. But to swim three other splits at the rate that she did, which was quite ordinary for elite competition, and then unleash a historic anomaly, it is just not right.”
What is interesting is the response of Arne Ljungqvist, medical commission chief for the International Olympic Committee, who denounced such concerns as “against the fascination of sport.” Really? An athlete from a country with a long history of cheating puts up a time that some consider impossible and the watchdog organization considers it outrageous to question the performance? It does not seem so unreasonable to raise such a concern when a young girl virtually bests the top male swimmer in the sport. She may be simply a physical miracle, but there is a reason to raise the question given the views of so many experts.
I have no problem with additional drug testing or inquiry for any athlete setting a world record as a matter of course.
What do you think?