Olympics: 'There is no doping' - Chinese swimming team

China has been forced to defend Ye Shiwen against suspicions she could be a drug cheat. Photo / AP
China has been forced to defend Ye Shiwen against suspicions she could be a drug cheat. Photo / AP

The Chinese swimming team have hit back at allegations 16-year-old swimming sensation Ye Shiwen is a drug cheat.

Ye raised eyebrows after she won gold in the 400 meters individual medley, with a world record time of 4 minutes and 28.43 seconds - more than a second faster than the previous record and five seconds quicker than her own personal best.

Suspicions were raised further after it was pointed out Xu's final 50 metres were swum quicker than the men's 400 meters medley winner Ryan Lochte swum in his final lap.

However, team leader of the Chinese swimming team Xu Qi told state media outlet Xinhua the comparison was "meaningless".

"Ye was behind after 300m and she need to try her best to win the race, but Lochte had already established the lead before the freestyle and didn't need to do his upmost."

Xu rubbished suggestions Ye was a drug cheat.

"There is no doping, the Chinese team has always had a firm anti-doping policy," she said.

"Michael Phelps won eight gold medals at the Beijing Games, and American swimmer Missy Franklin is also incredible. Why can't China have a talented swimmer?"

Ye believes she can go even faster.

"I feel like I still have room to improve my stroke," she told China Daily.

"I've strengthened my backstroke and butterfly, so I am getting better at the start. But I am still young and have some more potential in my body.

"I dreamed of winning the gold medal, but I never ever expected to break the record. So I am overwhelmed," she said.

Xu's performance "flat-out impossible"

After the race, BBC presenter Clare Balding asked former British Olympian Mark Foster, "How many questions will there be, Mark, about somebody who can suddenly swim so much faster than she has ever swum before?"

Immediately reporters peppered Arne Ljungqvist, the international Olympic Committee's medical commission chairman with questions about Ye.

Ljungqvist said "it is very sad that an unexpected performance be surrounded by suspicions."

"Suspicion is halfway an accusation that something is wrong," Ljungqvist said. "I don't like that. I would rather have facts."

Despite Mr Ljungqvist's best efforts It seems the greatest show on earth will again be dogged by the suspicion of performance enhancing drugs.

Top US swimming coach John Leonard, the executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association, has branded Ye's performance as "unbelievable" and "disturbing" and her speed over the final 50-metres as "flat out impossible".

Leonard told The Guardian that the race brings back memories of Irish swimmer Michelle Smith's four medal win at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996; she was later given a four year ban after failing a drug test.

He added that because she is from China - which has been dogged by swimmers testing positive for performance enhancing drugs in recent years - adds even more suspicion.

He has even suggested that the Chinese could be using genetic manipulation to enhance performances.

China's doping days in the past?

China's past will always cause suspicion at the Olympics Games after a sports scientist at San Diego State tallied 32 Chinese swimmers caught for drug offences in the 1990s, two of them twice.

However there may be another explanation for Ye's phenomenal ability. Unlike the 1990s China has turned to some of the sharpest minds in swimming, foreign coaches have been called in to improve coaching programmes.

Ye has trained in Australia with two well-recognized coaches, Ken Wood and Denis Cotterell. Wood has had a coaching contract with the Chinese Swimming Assosation since 2008, he told the The Associated Press in a phone interview.

"I get paid per month, per swimmer four times more than I do with my home swimmers,"

"China is putting a lot of money into its program and I am only too happy to work with them," he said.

"The whole Chinese philosophy is that they want to be the best they can."

"In the 1990s, the reputation of Chinese swimming wasn't good. There were a lot of doping problems. But it really is very different now. A lot of attention is paid to training. And despite breaking the world record, Ye Shiwen didn't come out of nowhere. Her results have steadily been improving," he said. "So I think it is down to training, not other methods."

"What they are saying is: 'Where did this girl come from? She came from nowhere,'" Wood said. "That's absolutely rubbish."

- HERALD ONLINE/AP

- NZ Herald

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