Swimming World Magazine revealed today that four new Chinese swimmers have tested positive for illegal, performance-enhancing drugs, and have been suspended for two years, bringing to 23 the number of Chinese to have been suspended for drug use since 1991.
The information about the positive tests and suspensions was uncovered by Craig Lord, Swimming World’s European correspondent.
FINA, swimming’s international governing body, has not yet confirmed the positive tests and suspensions.
The four swimmers include three women, Yu Ran, Pu Shi, and Chen Jialin, all of whom tested positive for an unidentified anabolic steroid, and one man, Lu Qiang, whose testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio was above the 6:1 limit that signifies, without a doubt, illegal drug usage.
None of the four swimmers were ranked within the top 30 in the world in their events. Three coaches have also been suspended.
Four years ago, Swimming World was the first publication to uncover the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs by Chinese swimmers. A year later, the California-based publication scored another coup when it became the first publication to print secret documents from the Stasi–the East German secret police–documenting the systematic doping of all world-class athletes in the former East Germany.
China’s 23 drug suspensions since 1991 are more than those for the rest of the world’s nations combined since the inception of drug testing in the early 1970s. The latest four, reported by Chinese officials, were said to have occurred at the national championships in mid-January of 1996.
Apparently the positives were not reported to FINA until early this year.
Serious questions, however, are raised by the latest positive tests. Dr. Phillip Whitten, Editor of Swimming World, noted: We have no record of a Chinese national championship taking place in January of ’96, and there are no Chinese times at all in last year’s top 150 times–either long course or short course–that date from January. The date of these infractions is significant because, under FINA rules, the length of a suspension for testing positive was increased from two to four years, effective late January 1996. If these positive tests actually occurred after January, the swimmers and coaches should have been suspended for four years.
Though Whitten felt China’s reporting of the drug infractions was an indication China may finally be getting serious about cleaning up the drug mess, he questioned why it took Chinese sports officials more than a year to report the positive drug tests. Perhaps they felt that such a report, coming right before the Olympic Games, would be an inopportune time, he speculated. Chinese athletes, particularly its swimmers and runners, were widely accused of using drugs systematically before the Games in Atlanta.
By reporting the four infractions itself, under FINA rules China avoids having its entire swimming program barred from international competition for the next four years.
There is also the question of why FINA has taken so long in reporting these positive tests. Had it not been for Craig Lord’s brilliant sleuthing, FINA still would not have uttered a peep, Whitten said. Swimming World and the World Swim Coaches Association have repeatedly called for FINA to make known the results of all drug tests on a timely basis.
At the recently concluded World Short Course Swimming Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden, China finished a strong second to Australia in the team medal standings, with six titles among its 13 medals, almost all won by women.
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