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Chinese "Explain" Pan Pac Withdrawls -- August 3, 1999

BEIJING, CHINA - Conflicting domestic schedules prompted China to pull 15 swimmers from the coming Pan Pacific Championships, state media said overnight, countering accusations that drug use was to blame.

All but five of China's original team of 20 swimmers "were asked by their provincial associations to compete in the National City Games," the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The games, held every four years, are "more important for our provincial associations," Xinhua quoted Zhang Qiuping, spokesman for the Chinese Swimming Association, as saying. "The City Games are slated to kick off in September, just 10 days after the PanPacs and the Military World Games are also in...mid-August," Zhang said.

"While young swimmers are preparing for the City Games, elder swimmers are concentrating on the biannual National Championships in mid-October, which is the first of only two national Olympic trials," Xinhua added.

Australian Olympic champion Susie O'Neill said China's decision to reduce its squad raised suspicions about drug use. The August 22-29 Pan Pacs in Sydney are the biggest long-course meet before next year's Olympics.

"It's just really suss (suspicious), I haven't got any respect for the Chinese swimmers to be perfectly honest," O'Neill said on Friday. "They've cheated over the years and there's been evidence to prove it so...hopefully they won't turn up at the Olympics either."

Zhang, the Chinese spokesman, countered, saying 326 swimmers had been tested for banned drugs through the end of June, including 196 in out-of-competition tests, and that all results were negative, Xinhua reported.

Breaststroker Zeng Qiliang and backstroker Fu Yong will head the China's team of three men and two women at the Pan Pacs, Xinhua said. It did not name the other swimmers.