Swimming sensation Ye Shiwen smashed another Olympic record in winning a second gold last night - as more than 1.5million Twitter users in China attacked 'smears' linking her to drugs.
The diplomatic storm surrounding the 16-year-old dubbed the 'Mandarin Mermaid' did little to harm her performance as she swam to victory in the 200m individual medley at the Aquatics Centre in a time of 2.07.05.
It beat the previous Olympic best for the distance she had set in the semi-finals and is unlikely to defuse the controversy over how to explain her dramatic performances damned by a senior US coach as 'unbelievable' and 'disturbing.'
Olympic organisers warned that if there were drug cheats at London 2012 'they will be caught' while Chinese team officials point out Miss Ye had been repeatedly tested and never failed a test.
Miss Ye's father, Ye Qingsong, yesterday hit back at what he termed 'biased' reaction to his daughter's win stressing the Chinese swimming team had gone through an especially rigorous anti-doping regime.
He attributed her victory to a combination of hard work and guidance from Chinese coaches, adding: "The Western media has always been arrogant, and suspicious of Chinese people."
The criticisms of the teenager have been met by a storm of protest in China where Weibo platforms - China's Twitter equivalents - were inundated with messages defending Miss Ye and accusing critics of being 'jealous', 'sour grapes' and 'shameful bias'.
Some suggested it was a conspiracy by Britain, the US and Germany to damage standing of the Chinese team which currently tops the London 2012 medal table.
Jiang Zhixue, the head of anti-doping work at China's General Administration of Sport, dismissed the slurs, insisting: "It is not proper to single Chinese swimmers out once they produce good results...some people are just biased.
"The Chinese athletes, including the swimmers, have undergone nearly 100 drug tests since they arrived [in London]. Many were also tested by the international federations and the British anti-doping agency. I can tell you that so far there was not a single positive case."
Describing Miss Ye as a 'superwoman', the respected American John Leonard, executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association, triggered the diplomatic storm by casting doubt on her performances suggesting they were reminiscent of swimmers at previous Olympics who had subsequently been caught for using performance-enhancing drugs.
Lord Coe, London's Olympic chief, urged caution. "It's very difficult to make judgments," he said, "It was an outstanding performance. I tend to believe...it's very unfair to judge an athlete by a sudden breakthrough."
There was support too from Duncan Goodhew, Olympic Village deputy mayor, and a gold medallist in the men's 100m breaststroke in the 1980 Moscow Olympics. He stressed competitors were innocent until proven guilty and that there were always 'incredible improvements' in performance at large sporting events.
Former Olympic gold medallist Jonathan Edwards took to Twitter to express his concern writing: "Forgive personal reference, but my WR [World Record] 17 yrs old and never been doubted. If my nationality was different?? Point: if I can, anyone can."
Miss Ye has insisted she has done nothing wrong and never used performance enhancing drugs.
International Olympic Committee communications director Mark Adams said yesterday: "We have a very strong drugs testing programme. And we're very confident that if there are cheats then we will catch them."
Mr Adams said there had been 1,706 tests so far in London, of which 1,344 were urine and 362 were blood. The first five athletes are tested automatically and then two others at random, he said.
The Chinese media was also robust in its defence of Miss Ye with The Global Times' Chinese edition saying both British and German media had cast doubts over her performance, while a further report from its website Huanqiu.com takes aim at BBC commentator Clare Balding, accusing her of triggering the row.
The TV presenter had expressed her surprise at the stunning nature of Miss Ye's performance immediately after the win prompting debate on Twitter over whether the swimmer was being linked to drugs.
Miss Ye's extraordinary swim had come in the 400m individual medley, in which she managed the last 50m of the freestyle leg in 28.93 seconds - compared with the 29.1 seconds 27-year-old Ryan Lochte managed in the men's event minutes earlier.
But it was on Weibo that the Chinese really expressed their bitterness over the criticisms of the teenager. Some accused the British of envy - "You Brits, don't join the Olympic Games if you can't afford losing," wrote one user in Sichuan.
Others said Ye's swim was the product of effort and training.
A user in Beijing asked why the extent of human endeavour was being questioned, saying: "Isn't it the Olympic spirit that encourages people to go higher, quicker and stronger?"
However, there was some support for critics with one Chinese Weibo user in Australia, pointing out British commentators had freedom of speech and so could ask what questions they liked.
China's deputy anti-doping chief Zhao Jian accused Mr Leonard of thinking 'too much' and urged people to wait for test results.
He added: "It seems in the sports world people always suspect good scores. You cannot assume a runner is not a normal person just because he runs faster. Those assumptions are not fair to any athlete." He added: "All Chinese athletes get anti-doping education and training, take an oath and take an exam. Our system is serious and severe."
- Daily Mail