By Phillip Whitten
BUSAN, South Korea, Sept. 27. THE 14th Asian Games, which begin on Sunday, September 29, in the bustling South Korean city of Busan, will feature a Japan vs. China matchup in swimming, as both nations contend for the title of Asia's top swimming nation.
SwimInfo will bring you daily reports and results from the Games, scheduled to continue through October 14.
China versus Japan
Barring spectacular performances by unknown Chinese swimmers, Japan should have a slight edge. The Japanese are strong in both the men's and women's events while Chinese prowess is mainly limited to the distaff side.
The Chinese are further weakened by the sudden retirement of 200m IM world record-holder, Wu Yanyan, and the withdrawal of Luo Nan, ranked second in the world in the 200m breaststroke (2:24.41) behind teammate and world record-holder, Qi Hui (2:23.76 this year).
Watching Chinese Performances
Foreign observers, particularly Americans and Australians, will be watching the Chinese performances closely for any whiff of drug-assisted swims. At the 1994 Asian Games, seven Chinese swimmers tested positive for the steroid DHT; in subsequent Asian Games, as well as Chinese National Games, spectacular performances by previously unranked swimmers pointed unerringly toward the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
These scandals were followed by the twin doping exposes involving Chinese swimmers at the 1998 World Championships.
In 2001, Chinese swimmers were, with a handful of exceptions, non-contenders at the Fukuoka World Championships. Only a few weeks later, at the Chinese Nationals, times were much faster, with one provincial women's 800m freestyle relay team swimming faster than the winning time at the World Championships. In Fukuoka, the Chinese National team failed to make the finals.
Again, at this year's Pan Pacific Championships, Chinese swimmers were non-factors. It will be interesting to see if the pattern of sudden, spectacular performances repeats itself in Busan.
In recent weeks, Chinese Olympic officials have acknowledged China's doping problem and vowed to take a hard line on any athletes caught using performance-enhancing drugs.
EPO Tests Ruled Out
Casting a further cloud over Busan, South Korean doping control officials announced last Wednesday that no EPO tests will be conducted at the Asian Games.
"There will be no EPO tests at the Busan Games," Seo Kab-Jong, director of Doping Control Division of the Busan Asian Games Organizing Committee (BAGOC), told Xinhua, the Chinese news agency.
"The decision was made at a meeting of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) Medical Committee in 2000. We will have only urine tests for the Asian Games," added the 43-year-old Seo.
EPO enhances endurance by boosting the production of
oxygen-rich red blood cells in the body. It cannot be detected by standard urine tests. EPO tests were first introduced at the Sydney Olympic Games, after several years during which the IOC attempted to bury promising testing procedures.
"South Korea's analytic laboratory (at the South Korean Institute of science and Technology in Seoul) has the ability to conduct both urine and blood tests for EPO, but the decision was made beforehand by the OCA Medical Committee," said Seo.
According to Seo, 760 tests will be conducted during the Asian Games, but none will be out-of-competition.
"All the tests will be conducted after competition, it was also decided by the OCA Medical Committee. The doping control program will be carried out in accordance with the regulations of the OCA."
All the urine samples will be sent daily from Busan to the laboratory in Seoul, which was re-accredited by the IOC Medical Committee early this year, and analyzed there. Positive results, if there are any, will be reported to the OCA Medical Committee in 24 hours after arrival of the samples.
Qataris Send Youngest Team
The emirate of Qatar announced today that it is sending a 10-man swim team. With a team ranging in age from 11 to 19, the Qataris are the youngest team in Busan.