Chinese officials have leaped to defend Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen, 16, who has faced accusations that she must be using performance-enhancing drugs because … she has been swimming very fast here at the Olympic Games. As The Post reported recently, suspicion rather than celebration often accompanies incredible performances in speed sports such as track and field and swimming in the aftermath of various doping scandals dating from the 1980s.
Ye has not flunked a drug test. There is no evidence that she has used any drugs. Her offense? She lowered the world record in the 400-meter individual medley with a shockingly fast freestyle leg — hers was faster than that of men’s gold medal winner Ryan Lochte and several other men in the medley final. The performance elicited awe and surprise from a host of swimmers, including Lochte, but no swimmer has made a public doping allegation. Ye has told reporters only that China takes its anti-doping program seriously.
“My achievements derive from diligence and hard work, I will never use drugs. Chinese athletes are clean,” Ye told reporters late Monday. “The Chinese team is extremely strict on doping control, so I can assure you that is not an issue with us.”
But John Leonard, the longtime head of the World Swimming Coaches Association, created a firestorm when he told London’s Guardian newspaper Monday that Ye’s performance was disturbing and defied belief. Her speed and China’s history of involvement in doping, he said, “call that swim into question.” Leonard, it is worth mentioning, has been a longtime skeptic of the Chinese, who received sanctions for various doping violations from the world swimming governing body back in the 1990s.
The growing controversy perhaps deserves more scrutiny than Ye’s times. Should coaches from the United States — the source of the world’s most recent big doping scandal (the so-called Balco affair that emerged in 2003) — wag their fingers at high-achieving athletes from other nations?
U.S. star Dana Vollmer faced no similar suspicions after she broke the 100 butterfly world record Sunday four years after not making the Olympic team. Michael Phelps set eight world records in winning eight gold medals at the Beijing Games, and no alarms were sounded, a point raised by China’s anti-doping chief in firing back Tuesday.
“I think it is not proper to single Chinese swimmers out once they produce good results. Some people are just biased,” Jiang Zhixue, who leads anti-doping work at China’s General Administration of Sport, told the state news agency Xinhua. ”We never questioned Michael Phelps when he bagged eight gold medals in Beijing.”