By Derek Parr
LONDON, July 13. Chinese world champion Wu Yanyan has returned a positive dope test for an anabolic steroid, the International Amateur Swimming Federation (FINA) said on Thursday.
Wu tested positive for the anabolic substance 19Norandrosterone at the Chinese national championships in Jinan in May and the Chinese swimming association notified FINA on June 8, FINA director Cornel Marculescu said.
It is the latest in a succession of Chinese doping controversies dating back to October 1994 when seven swimmers were among 11 Chinese athletes who tested positive at the Asian Games in Hiroshima.
Marculescu, speaking from FINA's Swiss headquarters in Lausanne, said Wu's case was continuing, with the results of the B (second) sample test still to come.
An anabolic steroid offence carries a minimum four-year ban, so Wu would miss the Sydney Olympics if the positive test was confirmed.
Wu broke the 200 meter individual medley world record at the Chinese National Games in Shanghai in October 1997, slashing two seconds off the mark set by countrywoman Lin Li in 1992. She also won the event at the world championships in Perth, Australia, in January 1998 with the second fastest time in history.
Wu, who was plagued by health problems after the Asian Games in Bangkok in late 1998, was one of the few who lived up to expectations and swam fast in Jinan.
She clocked two minutes 14.02 seconds in the 200 individual medley, her fastest time since she won the world title in Perth, though well outside her world record 2:09.72.
Swimming Australia president Terry Gathercole, an ardent anti-drugs campaigner, said the news that Wu had been caught out by Chinese authorities and reported to FINA was a sign that China was trying to clean up its act.
"If the tests were conducted by China itself, it's significant because it shows they are really trying to overcome the problem," Gathercole said in Australia.
"It shows they're trying to clean it up. They recognize that they have a not too enviable record…It's very encouraging."
China's achievements in the pool have been undermined by the public doping scandals. Less than a month before the 1994 Asian Games scandal the Chinese had swamped their rivals at the world championships in Rome, winning 12 of the 16 women's titles. Two of those world champions were among those who tested positive in Hiroshima.
China won a relatively modest three gold medals in Perth, compared with the 12 in Rome, and made bigger headlines for doping scandals.
Swimmer Yuan Yuan was banned for four years and her coach Zhou Zhewen for 15 years after human growth hormone was found in Yuan's luggage at Sydney airport on the way to Perth.
Four more Chinese swimmers tested positive for the banned diuretic triamterene in Perth and were banned for two years.
Last year Xiong Guoming, one of the seven swimmers banned at the 1994 Asian Games, and Wang Wei, one of the four suspended for the diuretic offence in Perth, tested positive for clenbuterol and were banned for a further three years.
Four other Chinese swimmers — three from Shanghai and one from Tianjin — and their coaches were banned for positive tests returned in 1998.