Debate Over Chinese Swimmer Turns Testy in Asia

any great accomplishments by non-whites are seen is suspicious by the racist anglo-american, western white culture while similar ones by whites are not. Non-white accomplishments are threats to white supremacy.




HONG KONG — A debate is raging about how a young Chinese athlete could have improved so dramatically at the Olympics — swimming a portion of her race faster than elite male swimmers — while capturing a gold medal in world-record time.

The professional doubters suggest it’s plausible that Ye Shiwen, 16, might have had some kind of pharmaceutical assistance. But she has come up clean in post-race drug tests, and Ms. Ye said she had “absolutely not” using any banned substances.

One longtime international coach said her record-shattering victory in the 400-meter individual medley was “not believable to many people.” Others have pointed to the Chinese swim program’s long rap sheet of previous drug offenses, and history shows that mind-boggling Olympic performances are certainly worthy of some suspicion, or at least close examination.

A larger question in Asia, meanwhile, is whether the mere questioning of a remarkable achievement by an Asian swimmer smacks of racism. Many Chinese bloggers and commenters feel the debate is offensive, and rooted in deeper anti-China sentiments.

If Ye Shiwen was an American swimmer, would they be calling her a cheat or a teenage phenom?

While there were some racist jabs on Twitter like “eye-opening results,” many online commenters in China were proudly referring to Ms. Ye as “Yeah She Won!”

On Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, jlhongfeng (洪峰 ) said Wednesday, “This is typical Chauvinism. Those who question Ye Shiwen’s achievements are just jealous, jealous of the fact that China has become powerful in swimming. Ye Shiwen’s response: ‘The turn of events has actually motivated me to work harder.’ ”

“Proud of you,” said another microblogger, Mr. Tianhei (天黑). “The foreign media are really nasty.”

Ms. Ye’s father said on the Chinese news portal Tencent that it was “normal for people to be suspicious” of her performances. But he added, “The Western media has always been arrogant, and suspicious of Chinese people.”

Chinese sports officials have said much the same thing, and they credit Ms. Ye’s excellence to a decade of hard work, their “scientific training” methods and her outsized hands and feet, which give her extra propulsion.

Ms. Ye herself has questioned her questioners.

“They are biased,” she said at a press conference. “In other countries, other swimmers win multiple gold medals. Why criticize me because I have won multiple medals?”

For those slating Ye Shiwen because of “Chinese history of doping”, she actually trains in Brisbane, under Oz coaches.

But John Leonard, executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association, says in a story in The Guardian that Ms. Ye’s victory was “unbelievable,” and he was careful to add: “I use that word in its precise meaning. At this point it is not believable to many people.”

“You can’t turn around and call it racism to say the Chinese have a doping history,” Mr. Leonard said. “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.”

Mr. Leonard said comparisons to Michael Phelps’s achievements were unfounded because he swam “consistently faster every year on a normal improvement curve.”

I feel very uneasy about accusations being leveled at Ye Shiwen – she’s 16! I’d prefer to believe in brilliance until proven otherwise

There are many drug-addled precedents in Olympic history, from the marathon champion plied with brandy-and-strychnine cocktails (handed to him during the race!) to Ben Johnson’s astonishing 100-meter world record in 1988 and Marion Jones’s five forefeited medals at the 2000 Games.

In the pool, there have been the breakthrough swims of the Irish swimmer Michelle Smith, later banned for doping, and the notorious East German phenoms, some of whom later confessed that they felt as much like lab experiments as athletes.

The greatest breakthrough performance at an Olympics — and one that has not been tainted by doping suspicions — was Bob Beamon’s winning long jump in the 1968 Games in Mexico City.

Was this the pre-steroid era? Probably. (Olympic drug testing was not fully in place until the 1972 Games.) It was certainly the era when drug testing was known to Olympic insiders as “sink technology,” when sports federations ran their own testing programs and simply poured any positive results down the sink.

In 1968, the world record in the long jump had been extended just 8 inches over the previous three decades. But Mr. Beamon, on his first jump in Mexico City, added nearly 2 feet to the existing mark. He jumped 8.90 meters, or 29 feet, 2½ inches, a record that would hold up for another quarter-century. Mr. Beamon himself never again jumped farther than 27 feet.

If anything Beamonesque happens again in the pool in London this week, or next week on the track, well, one can imagine the outcry.

Despite the Chinese swimmers’ checkered medicinal past, team officials complained this week that it is “unfair” and “not proper” to link their latest results with past drug use.

But a 16-year-old Chinese swimmer, Li Zhesi, the holder of a world relay title, recently tested positive for EPO, the blood boosting agent. In 2009, five junior swimmers were banned for using clenbuterol, an anabolic agent, after testing positive at a national meet.

Ross Tucker, a South African exercise physiologist, is an expert in the training and pacing strategies used by elite athletes. He wrote his doctoral thesis on it.

On his Web site, The Science of Sport, he says “it should come as no surprise that people will be suspicious” of Ms. Ye’s performance. An excerpt from his commentary:

It’s not just the fact that a world record was broken that arouses suspicion. It is that the record breaker is only 16 years old, and has improved her time in the event by 7 seconds since last year’s World Championships where she finished fifth in 4:35.

Also, and this has to be said, we regard swimmers from China with more suspicion. There are a few reasons for this and some of them, I do not condone. However, I do appreciate the suspicion — remember, this is the nation that produced a host of world-class runners almost overnight in the early 1990s. They came, they saw, the smashed world records that are yet to be challenged, let alone broken, in the women’s 1500m, 3000m and 10,000m. Then they vanished almost as quickly.

In the pool, history teaches us to be equally skeptical. Just this year, a 16-year old Chinese swimmer tested positive for EPO. In the 1990s, the same thing happened for swimming as happened for running — came, saw, conquered. But in that case, they got caught and then disappeared.

So what is your take on Ms. Ye and the suggestions about her gold-medal performances? Does this smack of racism, or is it a fair and legitimate discussion to have? Does the swim coach, John Leonard, owe Ms. Ye an apology? Is the subtext of the debate perhaps a Western fear and jealousy over a rising China? As a sports debate, is the topic fair game or out of bounds? Please, speak freely.