A US coach has questioned the performance of the 16-year-old Chinese Olympic swimmer Ye Shiwen at the 400m individual medley, saying her world record-breaking performance was "unbelievable." But Ye says it was the result of "hard work and training."
After the Chinese teenager swam the last 50m of the freestyle leg in 28.93 seconds compared with the 29.1 seconds that 27 year-old American Ryan Lochte managed in the men's event, Coach John Leonard, the US executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association, suggested that Ye could have used drugs. Leonard said Ye's performance was "unbelievable" and "disturbing." Leonard also suggested the Chinese could be using "genetic manipulation" to enhance athletic performance.
But Ye has defended her performance. She told the China News Service: "There is absolutely no problem with doping. The Chinese have always had a firm policy about doping. My results come from hard work and training and I would never use any banned drugs. The Chinese people have clean hands."
The BBC reports Leonard compared Ye's performance to previous extraordinary performances by East German swimmers that were later found to have been due to performance-enhancing drugs. The Guardian reports he said: "We want to be very careful about calling it doping. The one thing I will say is that history in our sport will tell you that every time we see something, and I will put quotation marks around this, 'unbelievable,' history shows us that it turns out later on there was doping involved. That last 100m was reminiscent of some old East German swimmers, for people who have been around a while. It was reminiscent of the 400m individual medley by a young Irish woman in Atlanta."
He said that a female swimmer who could outpace one of the world's fastest male swimmers and finish three-and-a-half lengths ahead of her nearest rival should have her performance called into question.
According to The Guardian, Leonard said: "I have been around swimming for four-and-a-half decades now. If you have been around swimming you know when something has been done that just isn't right. I have heard commentators saying 'well she is 16, and at that age amazing things happen.' Well yes, but not that amazing. I am sorry."
Leonard said the consensus in the coaching community was that the swim was "unbelievable." The Daily Mail reports he called for investigation into Ye's performance, saying: "It is a result that demands an explanation – it is unprecedented."
Sky News reports that users of China's microblogging site Weibo have defended Ye and accused US and UK of jealousy. Over a million Weibo users have so far posted comments on the subject.
According to Sky News, a Chinese user wrote: "It's not classy at all to say that record-breakers have taken drugs. It's just jealousy."
Another said: "She's just a child. Don't be so beastly to her."
But some expressed doubts. A Chinese commented: "Maybe the Chinese have discovered some sort of new drug, for how could she suddenly have become this strong?"
Chinese swimming team leader Xu Qi, defended Ye's performance, saying her result had been expected. He said: "To compare Ye's result with Lochte's is meaningless. Ye was behind after 300m and she needed to try her best to win the race, but Lochte had already established the lead before the freestyle and didn't need to do his utmost."
BBC reports some experts and former swimmers say Ye's performance was not unprecedented. Former Olympic champion Ian Thorpe, said he had also improved his personal-best time by five seconds in a year when he was a younger athlete. He said: "We have to remember that young swimmers can take chunks of time off that other people can't."
Arne Ljungqvist, medical commission chairman for the International Olympic Committee, described the speculations as sad. She said: "To raise suspicion immediately when you see an extraordinary performance - to me it is against the fascination of sport."
BBC recalls that Chinese swimmers have tested positive for doping recently. Seven Chinese swimmers tested positive for banned drugs at the Asian Games in Hiroshima in 1994. In the 1998 world championships in Perth, four Chinese competitors were sent home after testing positive for steroids.
Ouyang Kunpeng, China's backstroke record holder, was given a lifetime ban after he tested positive for human growth hormone a month before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but the ban was later changed to two years.
Leonard also alluded to the Irish swimmer Michelle Smith, who was banned for four years in 1998 for tampering with drug tests after she won at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
The Guardian reports Leonard remarked: "You can't turn around and call it racism to say the Chinese have a doping history. That is just history. That's fact. Does that make us suspicious? Of course. You have to question any outrageous performance, and that is an outrageous performance, unprecedented in any way, shape or form in the history of our sport. It by itself, regardless of whether she was Chinese, Lithuanian, Kenyan, or anything else, is impossible. Sorry."
The BBC reports that all medal winners at the Olympics are drug tested. Any athlete whose performance significantly surpasses exception can undergo additional tests.
China's anti-doping chief revealed that Chinese athletes have undergone nearly 100 drugs tests since arriving in London, and that none has tested positive.
The Guardian reports IOC president Jacques Rogge, said at his opening press conference: "We are continuing to test and test and test again before the competition. We will be testing, of course, during the competition, but I will say that this [that some athletes had been caught before the games] is proof that the system works, that the system is effective and that the system is a deterrent one."