The Surface Impact Of The All-China Games

Liu Zige on the way to the world title this summer but her 2nd place in Shenyang bucked the trend in terms of which meet was most important to China [Photo: Patrick B. Kraemer]

The All-China Games ended in Shenyang yesterday, events there making it clear that China is not swimming to capacity and full strength in world waters, many of the efforts at the Games overshadowing what the London 2012 No2 swimming nation put on show at the FINA World Championships in Barcelona this summer past. That raises questions for authorities in swimming, anti-doping and at national level

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The All-China Games ended in Shenyang yesterday, events there making it clear that China is not swimming to capacity and full strength in world waters, many of the efforts at the Games overshadowing what the London 2012 No2 swimming nation put on show at the FINA World Championships in Barcelona this summer past. That raises questions for authorities in swimming, anti-doping and at national level



The only way to control this situation is to insist that a team from WADA be invited to the next All China Games and have all finalists tested. Alternatively only recognise times set where full doping control is in place. If it looks like a cheat and sounds like a cheat, it probably is a cheat. The athletes from the GDR often set world records at their national trials, and whilst they won their events and passed drug tests, the presence of banned substances had more than likely been flushed from their systems by the time they competed internationally and they enjoyed the “tail end” of the effects of their cheating.


This article is fascinating, comprehensive and thought provoking. Top notch, detailed reporting, Mr. Lord.


These games always produce dark horses in women’s long distance free: Zhou Guanbin in 1993 (tested positive), Chen Yan in 1997, Zhang Liang in 2001, Yang Jieqiao in 2005 and Chen Qian in 2009. Their similarity: They all won 400/800m free. Difference: Only Chen Qian managed to medal in the distance free event in the subsequent games.

Lane Four

Chen Yan won the 1998 World Championship gold medal in the 400 free and then nothing after that.

Craig Lord

Josh, I get your drift and understand why people may well be cynical but I also think that such general statements catch a great many excellent athletes who are training and competing clean. Its the stuff of ‘all teens in hoodies are up to no good’ … and such generalisations in sport also allow cheats to justify (to themselves) what they’re doing… “no choice, because everyone’s doing it”. I don’t believe that.

Bill Bell

They cheat like hell @ home and then gag internationally.

Women’s 200 free: Top 3 ALL sub 1:56.4 when prior to this meer not one of ’em under 2:00.0!

Winner of women’s 100 back goes 59.36 semis/50.6 to win.

NEVER under 1:02.0 before.

Iy’s a joke, a mockery.

These could give Lance Armstrong/Floyd Landis lessons!

Well come Kazan and Rio where there’s testing iy’ll be a differentstoru.
The 1990s ALL OVER AGAIN!!!


I remember the stunning times the womens distance runners produced in 1993 and 1997 National Games.


Strange co-incidence too that nearly all events where there was a major impacts occured are the women’s events. Most of the men’s events were relatively unaffected.
Sound familiar?


Josh I am sorry but the statistics you use appear more based upon speculation than maths.

Craig Lord

Testing isn’t doing the job it needs to do – not even close, Josh – correct. It is not hard to see why you would skeptical (and I do think the skeptic is greater than the scientist in your scenario). I think swimming has its problems and that actual cases are far fewer than the cases the sport would have if the testing regime was more efficient. However, what you suggest is very clear: Phelps, Lochte, Ledecky, Franklin, Vollmer, Pellegrini, Adlington, Morozov, Efimova, Meilutyte, Seto, just about anyone who wins, sets records, leads the way, if not just about all in the mix at that elevated level, are cheating. I don’t buy it. When a swimmer came along and improved 20sec on a 400m swim in mid-20s to take the ultimate prize, those defeated included swimmers who were very clearly far more talented and suited for swimming success at the highest level on a spectrum of aspects, including angles of buoyancy, etc etc… but illicit means took that swimmer from beyond top 100 to Olympic gold. Brute power was at play. Sometimes, things are extremely obvious, sometimes not. Even so, I think to take the recent world champs and label 70% upwards (or even 50% and upwards) of all finalists as cheats is not based on maths… it is speculation. There is no evidence to suggest that the majority of leading swim programs, their athletes and coaches in swimming are cheating on the grand scale that you imply. But if you have evidence to the contrary, please let us know.



Fu Yuanhui was the World Junior Champion in 2011. She was sub 60 last year at the Olympics and has a 50m PB of 27.2, I think you’ve confused her with somebody else in the ladies’ 100m Backstroke.

It is very easy and understandable to be very Cynical of the times the Chinese swim at home. But I think we need to be careful, as I think many top Chinese swimmers now swim in Australia… I know Chen Xinyi does for example. Given top facilities Chinese athletes (Like Chen Xinyi, Sun Yang and Jiao Liuyang in Australia) are capable of making huge time drops due to the improved environment, facilities and coaching.

We need to remember as a nation China is still learning so while there may still be doping concerns, there are also many hugely talented Chinese swimmers who outstrip Australian, British or American swimmers for work ethic and are beginning to see the rewards for their hard work.

Craig Lord

Josh: Meilutyte was well ahead of the curve of her peers at 12, 13, 14 on her way to an amazing result at 15. In the year since London 2012, she has added power. Her father left his country with a 10-11-year-old after his wife died in a car accident. He took a number of manual jobs to pay for the small flat he was able to afford when they arrived in England. Since then, Meilutyte has worked with the rest of the Plymouth Leander Squad run by coach Jon Rudd. Your scenario taints all of those people. Now, in my mind, if Leander, Rudd and Co were involved in anything ‘suspect’, to use your word, you might expect some Brits to have leapt up that curve and put in some unexpected results. I see nothing of the kind, nor do I find troublesome the circumstances and environment in which this swimmer developed. Josh, I have removed some words of your comment on the grounds that they are libellous and cannot sit on this website. Up to the point of commenting on anomalies and unusual circumstances and events, your words and views are your own and you are entitled to them.

Craig Lord

Josh, we will have to agreed to disagree, vehemently on one of your points: I do care if athletes do or don’t cheat, very much so, especially when the cheating is not down to an Armstrong of a certain age deciding for themselves ‘I’m going to cheat and lie and cheat and lie again and again and again” (that is bad enough and nothing to do with great sport nor, for me, entertainment worth paying a cent for), but rather when it is down to child abuse. When 13-14-15yr old girls (or young boys for that matter) are packed full of steroids, epo and other substances (as was the case in the GDR, with neither the knowledge nor the permission of their parents) without any warnings given to anyone about the dangers and side-effects, long-term and otherwise, of taking substances designed for and targeted at seriously sick people (the funding for the research provided for that purpose and in many cases from the public purse), w are all on the wrong track and sport becomes a pusher and promoter of ill-health and bad culture.
It is perfectly fair to point out that that scenario is far more likely in one social environment than another (just as I pointed out what reporter Amy Shipley discovered in Florida when it came to parents taking HGH and then some thinking it was ok to give it to their kids).
I don’t accept that there is any statistical comparison worth its weight when glancing at pro-cycling and Armstrong’s world and swimming or American football and swimming, for example.
The improvement comparisons I use are not misleading. The vast bulk of the swimming audience knows precisely where the times fall along a spectrum of speed and rank. And while 1:53 is not 1:56, I can look at the range and names of those with a 1:56 textile best over 200 free for women and know that very very few leapt from 2min plus to a 1:56 in one season. It is not only a question of speed and endurance but learning, too, how to swim a 200m free to best effect. When a nation cannot field anyone close to 1:56 and 4:10 leading up to and at a world championships and then finds a front line of 3 and 4 folk on 1:56 low and 4:03s and 4:04s, it is fair and not at all misleading to point it out. Such things are aberrations – and we all know it.
I think it unfair then to look the other way and say ‘because China is doing something unusual, lets note that almost everyone cheats anyway’. I don’t buy it. Nor do I think I’m alone.
Thanks for raising this important issue: debate will rumble on and on, no doubt. Where we do agree is clear: the testing regime is not working as it ought.

Kevin McNally


A personal opinion based on pure speculation and a complete lack of knowledge is one that is best not shared. You’ve made a series of foolish comments.

Swimming is a sport where physiological freaks excel, more so than in the vast majority of sports because of the resistance and buoyancy that water offers compared with air. It’s not enough to be tall and lean, the physiological make-up is critical to success. Phelps is particularly good example: massive arm span, long torso and relatively short legs for a man of his stature. Sun Yang is a similar freak of nature. The likes of Phelps and Sung Yang also make marginal gains over their rivals due to better stroke technique, turns etc. Physiology and technique are far more critical to swimming compared with sports like athletics – the 30 year old world records from steroid fuelled GDR athletes that current athletes can’t approach demonstrate this, as similar steroid fuelled performances in the pool have been easily surpassed by clean swimmers. Whilst any individual swimmer would be expected to improve if he/she were doping, it is not a pre-requisite for success. Whilst I’m touching on physiology it is worth noting that swimmers of an African origin will always have a disadvantage because of their higher bone density, and Asian swimmers in general will have a disadvantage due to their smaller stature.

I wouldn’t argue that Meilutyte and Ledecky were statistical aberrations at the 2012 Olympics but it is both a lazy and erroneous assumption to conclude that the improvements they made over the course of the year are proof of doping. It’s not insignificant that these swimmers were in their early teens; a time of rapid physiological and hormonal changes: at this point some females bolt and make remarkable improvements whilst others go backwards. Swimming has a long history of clean world beating 15 year old females. A similar improvement from a swimmer in her 20’s would be a different case entirely as Craig has alluded to with his reference to Michelle Smith. That’s not to say additional scrutiny is not warranted and it’s fairly clear that Craig has taken a good hard look into Meilutyte’s past performances and her programme .It is fairly clear that the network of enablers that a 15 year old girl would require to dope is absent. Any statistical observation is guidance that further investigation is warranted, nothing more, and certainly not proof.

There’s a particular interview that Bradley Wiggins gave during last year’s Tour de France where he addressed your kind of ill-informed speculation. Worth seeking out.

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