China Acknowledges That Its Games Attract Dopers
China has officially acknowledged that the All-China Games, at which Sun Yang is tipped to be the star when swimming gets underway in Shenyang tomorrow, has been a focus of cheating.
The head of Chinada, China’s Anti-Doping Agency, He Zhenwen links the large number of second-quarter doping cases to the staging of the four-yearly prestigious national games. The event has been the source of numerous dubious performances in the pool down the years, world records among them.
Some big names who set global marks at the Games have subsequently tested positive for doping, while many who make the podium at the Games never go on to represent China in international waters. However that comes about, it means less risk of suspected cheats making it abroad to embarrass China in the way the nation was left red-faced in a doping-soaked 1990s.
Back then, more than 40 swimmers alone tested positive for steroids in a few short years, while team members such as Yuan Yuan found themselves arrested by Australian police after customs officials found 13 vials of HGH, enough for the whole squad heading to the Perth 1998 world champs, in her kit bag. At the 1997 Games in Beijing, Wu Yanyan took down the 200IM world mark from 2:11.65 to 2:09.72.
Accusations poured in and suspicions confirmed some while later with Wu later tested positive for steroids and left the sport. Her record stood, however, until the advent of shiny suits.
She tested positive for “19-norandrosterone” on May 15, 2000 at the Chinese Olympic Trials in Jinan. The swimmer’s coach, Wu Jicai, was suspended for a year and fined 4,000 yuan (about $480 at the time). A ban of four years, starting on May 17, 2000 and a fine of 8,000 yuan ($965 at the time), was imposed by the Chinese Swimming Association.
”There always will be someone who risks doping for unfair advantage when the return is lucrative,” He Zhenwen told Xinhua and other Chinese media. ”History taught us that the national games could well be the reason for cheating.”
The Games are held once every four years and winners can reap rewards from provincial, city or army teams even more valuable than those offered in international competition such as the Olympic Games and World Championships. Provincial teams and even local politicians can also benefit from a cut in the rewards presented to athletes.
Chinada reported this week that eight athletes have been caught using performance-enhancing drugs ahead of the Games. The athletes were said to represent “a variety of sports”, with four of the cases among men, four among women. In a breakthrough for the biological passport program now used by FINA, one of the cases involved a “positive” registered through long-term monitoring of an athlete’s blood profile to detect doping use.
Leading women’s marathon runner Wang Jiali became the first Chinese athlete to be caught of suspected cheating under the biological passport program. A former Beijing Marathon winner and national champion, she has been suspended since February after anomalies were discovered in her long-term profile samples from May 2012 to January 2013.
The 27-year-old had never tested positive for doping before. Wang and the seven other athletes tested positive from a total of 4,768 tests in the second quarter of the year, the anti-doping authorities said. In the second quarter of the year, China caught 12 cheats, the number equal to the number of all cases in Olympic far 2012.
Stringent measures will be in place to control doping at the 12th National Games, a senior anti-doping official said. “Since last year, we have conducted more special doping tests of the athletes who will take part in the National Games,” Zhao Jian, vice-director of China’s Anti-Doping Agency, told China Daily.
“Officially, we will use the biological passport program during the National Games for the first time.”
Liaoning province, where the Games are being held between August 31 to September 12, has a poor record when it comes to doping. One source close to the China scene told SwimVortex.com: “The northern provinces are particularly suspect.”
The Anti-Doping Agency said that although the number of athletes participating is lower than in previous games, the number of doping tests has been set at an historic high of 2,575: 2,300 urine tests and 275 blood tests.
The latter will contribute to a biological passport which, according to the Swiss Laboratory for Doping Analyses, aims to find variances from established levels outside permissible limits, rather than testing for and identifying illegal substances. China introduced the new anti-doping plan in 2012. About 100 Chinese athletes have a biological passport.
Sports Minister Liu Peng urged all officials to adhere to the new, hard-line plan. “From those cases that happened before, we can say that the possibility of that happening during the games is also high,” said Liu, director of China’s State General Administration of Sport.
“We should take more serious measures to stop them because although they are not common, they will damage the image of the National Games and even Chinese sports themselves,” he said.
Meanwhile, the star of the swim events is set to be Olympic and world champion Sun Yang, who has already been written up as a four-times gold medal winner in China before he takes the plunge in the 400m free tomorrow.
The Olympic 400m and 1500m champion and world 400, 800 and 1500m champion, who represents southeast China’s Zhejiang Province, could end his campaign with 11 career gold medals from the Games, according to one report. In Shenyang, his roster includes the 100m, 200m, 400m and 1,500m freestyle events and three relays.
Doping remains the scourge of many sports, swimming included, around the world as the 2013 figures for FINA demonstrate.
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