By John Lohn
CRANBURY, New Jersey, December 14. WHAT a joke. There's no other way to say it.
During last week's Australian World Championship Trials in Brisbane, one of the main stories that emerged from the competition was speculation that Leisel Jones and Libby Lenton were taking part in the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Not that it mattered that there is no evidence – none whatsoever – that the women have dabbled in illegal activities.
So, why the accusations? In what might be one of the most laughable reasons out there, the finger-pointing simply arose from the fact that Jones and Lenton have sculpted physiques, more defined than in past years. The fact that either woman had to deal with such disgusting charges is a sad state. Unfortunately, today's society routinely suggests than any type of major success must be tied to illegal operations.
Obviously, swimming has dealt with significant drug issues in the past, most notably the systematic doping of the East German women in the 1970s and 1980s and the across-the-board drug usage of the Chinese in the early 1990s. Both of those stories were broken by Swimming World and the bulldog tenacity of former editor Phil Whitten. But, Jones and Lenton have done nothing to warrant the garbage they've been forced to endure.
In Brisbane, Jones and Lenton walked the deck with impressive physiques. Must be drugs, right? Must be on something, right? What was ignored was this fact: Maybe, just maybe, the women have dedicated themselves to fitness and weightlifting regimens that have produced spectacular body-figures.
Through the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Jones was saddled with the "unable to win the big one" tag. Although she was among the elite breaststrokers in the world, Jones had a tendency to tighten up during major international competition. Perhaps her inability to deliver under major pressure drove Jones to work harder in the pool and in dryland routines.
The past two years, Jones has been an untouchable force in the breaststroke. Aside from setting world records in the 100 and 200 breast events, she has regularly lowered her standards to the point where she currently has no challengers. But, the fact of the matter is that Jones has been a world-class performer for years, not an out-of-the-blue phenomenon.
As for Lenton, she has also developed in impressive form behind a splendid work ethic. The second-fastest woman in the history of the 100 freestyle, she also ranks among history's fastest in the 50 and 200 freestyles. Like Jones, Lenton hasn't risen from obscurity, but rather has proven herself a consistent climber.
There's no denying that the accusations tossed toward Jones and Lenton were hurtful. It's human nature. Let's just hope that as the World Champs in Melbourne roll around, the focus at the pool will revolve around the performances in the water, and the great effort they put into their training to make themselves the best in the world.