Swimming’s international governing body, FINA, appointed a four-man delegation to visit China and investigate doping, the organization announced from Lausanne, Switzerland.
Slammed by the international media for once again down playing drug issues at the World Championships held last month in Perth, Australia, the body asked the four man panel to assist the Chinese swimming federation, which is said to be investigating the four positive tests for a diuretic, used to mask steroid usage, and the expulsion of swimmer Yuan Yuan and her coach, Zhou Zhewen, for importing 13 vials of human growth hormone (hGH) into Australia. Chinese officials yesterday claimed that the hGH was not for the use of the swimmers but was meant to be sold in Australia, a major contravention of Australia’s drug-traficking laws. This contention is regraded by swimming experts with much skepticism.
The four-man panel is led by FINA vice president, Ross Wales, of the United States. It is the same panel that FINA appointed in 1995 to investigate a rash of doping positives. At that time, after a three-day visit, the panel concluded there was no reason to believe there was systematic doping in Chinese swimming. A total of 28 Chinese swimmers have tested positive for illegal performance-enhancing drugs since 1991, more than the rest of the world combined since drug-testing began in 1972.
Swimming World editor Phil Whitten took a skeptical view of the make-up of the panel. “It’s the same group–three lawyers and the owner of a Chinese noodle factory– that in 1995 found no evidence of systematic doping when such evidence was as obvious as anything could be.” Now, he said, the evidence is even more obvious.
“It appears that the make-up of this panel points in the direction of another white-wash,” Whitten said. “But I know Ross Wales well. He has the best interests of the sport at heart. Perhaps this should be seen as an opportunity for the panel to make amends for the shockingly inept job it did three years ago.”