July 30, 2012 ·7 Comments
Ye Shiwen waves after winning the gold medal and setting a new world record in the women’s 400m Individual Medley during the Swimming competition held at the Aquatics Center during the London 2012 Olympic Games in London, England, 28 July 2012. EPA/HANNIBAL Picture: Epa Source: AP
LONDON — THE boss of China’s Olympic swimming team has hit back furiously at claims that star teenager Ye Shiwen’s impressive performances in London are “suspicious”.
A top US coach hinted at possible doping in the case of Ye, the 16-year-old who put in a lighting-quick freestyle leg in a world record 400m IM race.
But an outraged China camp says there’s no reason Ye can’t simply be the next Ian Thorpe or Michael Phelps.
“Michael Phelps won eight gold medals at the Beijing Games, and American swimmer Missy Franklin is also incredible,” the swim chief, Xu Qi, told Xinhua news agency this morning.
“Why can’t China have a talented swimmer?”
Earlier, John Leonard, executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association, told The Guardian that the 16-year-old’s freestyle leg in her IM swim was simply “impossible”.
“The one thing I will say is that history in our sport will tell you that every time we see something, and I will put quotation marks around this, ‘unbelievable’, history shows us that it turns out later on there was doping involved,” Leonard told the British newspaper.
“That 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.”
Leonard was referring to Michelle de Bruin, who emerged as a triple gold-medallist at the 1996 Games (where she competed under maiden name Smith) but was banned for four years in 1998 for tampering with a urine sample.
“Any time someone has looked like superwoman in the history of our sport they have later been found guilty of doping,” he said, adding: “I have been around swimming for four-and-a-half decades now.
“If you have been around swimming you know when something has been done that just isn’t right. I have heard commentators saying ‘well she is 16, and at that age amazing things happen’. Well yes, but not that amazing. I am sorry.”
Earlier, the swimming prodigy categorically denied doping on after British media raised suspicions.
The 16-year-old Chinese swimmer, whose final 50m in the 400m medley shocked the world when she swam faster than American superstar Ryan Lochte for his final 50m on the same night in downing Michael Phelps.
With the swim, Ye took nearly seven seconds off her time at last year’s world championships.
She won this morning’s 200m individual medley semi-final with the fastest time of the year, easily eclipsing Australians Stephanie Rice and Alicia Couts.
But tongues, including Lochte’s, are wagging around Ye at London’s Olympic pool because of China’s drug-tainted history in swimming from the 1990s.
Lochte swam his closing lap of freestyle in 29.10sec. But here’s the jaw-dropper – the high school girl from China attached an outboard and blitzed the final lap in 28.93, swimming over the top of the world record line.
It is the first time in Olympic swimming history that a female has swum a faster closing lap than the men’s gold medallist.
Ye shattered Rice’s mark in the women’s 400m individual medley by more than a second.
“Insane,” was Rice’s comment after the race.
“I mean I didn’t see it, I was way over and behind, so I didn’t really see her coming home, but that split coming home was out of control.
But the Zhejiang youngster, who announced herself on the global stage with the 200m medley world title last year, said there was nothing untoward.
“There is no problem with doping, the Chinese team has a firm policy so there is no problem with that,” she said.
Ye was put on the spot after leading British media pounced on her performances, pointing to China’s record of state-sponsored doping in the 1980s and 1990s.
“Ye’s amazing time for freestyle leg scarcely credible,” read a headline in The Times, which noted that the youngster was a former team-mate of Chinese swimmer Li Zhesi, who was barred from the Olympics over blood-booster EPO.
“Chinese swimming has such a shameful history of doping that any remarkable achievement by one of its athletes is inevitably met with cynicism,” remarked the Daily Telegraph.
“A whiff of turtle blood in the water,” added the mass-market Daily Mail, referring to the infamous supplements given to China’s drug-tainted athletes in the 1990s.
Gold medal-winning icon Michael Phelps, in the same race as Lochte, had to process his own comparison. Ye swam her second last lap in 29.75, faster than the superstar American’s by 0.13 seconds.
Australian Olympic butterfly champion and now commentator Susie O’Neill voiced her fears about the Chinese girl.
“Every time we see a good Chinese swimmer we start to get a little bit nervous … there’ s just that 0.0001 per cent (of doubt) at the back of my mind’,” O’Neill said.
Female medley swimmers don’t normally go close to breaking the minute on the final 100m of freestyle, yet Ye blitzed it in 58.68 en route to the first world record set by a female since the end of the supersuit era at the beginning 2010.
Lochte was not caught unawares when he fielded questions about a Chinese schoolgirl beating him over the last lap.
“Yeah, we were talking about that at dinner. It’s pretty impressive. She’s fast. If she was there with me, she might have beat me,” Lochte said.
US swim team men’s coach Gregg (Gregg) Troy added: “Heck of a swim. You guys can do the research. I think that’s probably the fastest women’s split ever.”
The ugly background of doping in Chinese swimming in the 1990s remains a lingering stain on world sport.
Former breaststroke swimmer Yuan Yuan brought the systematic doping to the spotlight. In 1998, she was stopped with 13 vials of human growth hormone in her bag at Sydney Airport on her trip to the world championships in Perth.
International Olympic Committee anti-doping chief, Arne Ljungqvist, 81, said he could not be confident that athletes arriving in London had been pretested as much as other competitors.
“I simply don’t know who has been pre-tested and not been pre-tested,” he said.
“We have a general recommendation to both National Olympic Committees and National Federations to make as sure as they can that they don’t send doped athletes here.”
Ljungqvist said it would be dangerous to question a raise in performance or a surprise win as cheating.
“It partly ruins the charm of competitive sport if a surprise win is surrounded by suspicion,” he said.
Up to 6250 blood and urine samples will be tested during the London Games – the most ever.
The Anti-Doping workforce said one in two athletes would be tested during the competition, as well as every medallist.
Olympic anti-doping crusaders have also introduced a major development in using intelligence to crack down on doping at the London Games.
The new investigation methods include briefing Olympic cleaners, security and event staff to alert anti-doping authorities of any evidence of drug use.
Albanian weightlifter Hysen Pulaku and Uzbek gymnast Luiza Galiulina have tested positive for banned substances so far at London 2012, while St Kitts and Nevis sprinter Tameka Williams admitted to taking a banned substance.
Courier Mail with AFP
July 30, 2012Follow @somalilandpress
By Hassan Ali