A TOP US coach on Monday called China’s Ye Shiwen “suspicious” and compared her to East Germany’s drug-addled athletes after her super-fast times were questioned at the London Olympics.
John Leonard, executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association, told The Guardian that the 16-year-old’s lightning freestyle leg in her world-record 400m individual medley swim was simply “impossible”.
The schoolgirl timed 58.68 in the last 100m, a whisker off US winner Ryan Lochte’s time in the men’s competition. Astonishingly, her final lap was quicker than the American champion.
“The one thing I will say is that history in our sport will tell you that every time we see something, and I will put quotation marks around this, ‘unbelievable’, history shows us that it turns out later on there was doping involved,” Leonard told the British newspaper.
“That last 100m was reminiscent of some old East German swimmers, for people who have been around a while. It was reminiscent of the 400m individual medley by a young Irish woman in Atlanta.”
Leonard was referring to Michelle de Bruin, who emerged as a triple gold-medallist at the 1996 Games but was banned for four years in 1998 for tampering with a urine sample.
Shiwen, whose gold medal swim was described as “insane” by former record-holder Stephanie Rice, has already denied foul play. Late on Monday, she set the world’s fastest time in the 200m individual medley semi-finals.
“There is no problem with doping, the Chinese team have a firm policy so there is no problem with that,” said the youngster.
Shiwen won the 200m medley at the World Championships last year, but her 400m medley swim shaved seven seconds off her time at that meet. Leonard admitted such an improvement was possible at her age.
“But the final 100m was impossible. Flat out. If all her split times had been faster I don’t think anybody would be calling it into question, because she is a good swimmer,” he said.
“But to swim three other splits at the rate that she did, which was quite ordinary for elite competition, and then unleash a historic anomaly, it is just not right.”
Leonard is the first coach to speak out about Shiwen. British media have also pounced on her performances, pointing to China’s record of state-sponsored doping in the 1980s and 1990s.
But Arne Ljungqvist, medical commission chief for the International Olympic Committee, called the speculation “sad.”
“For me, it is very sad that an unexpected performance is surrounded by suspicions,” he told a briefing.
“I mean to raise suspicion immediately when you see an extraordinary performance – to me it is against the fascination of sport.”
China, who only won one swimming gold at Beijing 2008, took two on the first two days in London through Shiwen and men’s 400m freestyle winner Sun Yang. — AFP