Doping Allegations Against Ye Shiwen Hamper Stellar Performances in the Pool at the London Olympic Games
When 16-year-old Chinese swimming sensation Ye Shiwen stepped out of the pool and was draped with the gold medal after winning the women’s 400-meter individual medley at the London Olympic Games last Saturday at the Aquatics Center, it should have been a moment for her to enjoy the spotlight as family and friends back in China celebrated her success.
However, the Hangzhou native has been under another spotlight that most have deemed to be unfair as some elements of the media and a well-known U.S. coach have been questioning her performances in the pool.
Sitting in the press room where she should have been lauded and asked question after question about her performances, she has instead been faced with allegations of using performance enhancing drugs.
It all started with the BBC’s presenter posing a question about Ye’s big finish in the last 50 meters of the race which was noted as being faster than the time of American Ryan Lochte. From that point the accusations increased. The worst coming from John Leonard, the executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association, in an interview the Great Britain’s Guardian newspaper:
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 [Michelle de Bruin] in Atlanta.
While Leonard is speaking from his experience in past Olympic competitions, his questioning of Ye’s performance only increased the debate, with the young prodigy’s father and China’s anti-doping chief coming out later to defend her.
Ye, herself, has even responded to the accusations, trying her best to handle it in a professional manner:
My achievements derive from diligence and hard work, I will never use drugs. Chinese athletes are clean. The Chinese team is extremely strict on doping control, so I can assure you that is not an issue with us.
While this is a serious allegation against Ye and one that the International Olympic Committee said has no merit whatsoever, the scrutiny has not die down even after her victory in the women’s 200-meter individual medley days later.
The big question out of this entire affair is whether the media is setting a double standard when it comes to writing about athletes? There are many athletes on the Olympic stage, but a majority of them are not facing the same scrutiny.
Take for example the story of another teenager at the Olympic Games. Missy Franklin, a 17-year-old starlet swimming for the United States, has been the talk of the Olympic Games like Ye, but for different reasons.
While her story has been very inspiring in light of the tragic events that happened in Colorado recently, where Franklin attends high school. Snagging three golds and a bronze medal have not at all raised questions as to whether she is doping.
It is no secret that with China’s rise on the international stage economically the country has invested heavily in improving their sports programs. A great deal of it has been in hiring foreign trainers for teams and sending their best athletes abroad such as in the case of Ye Shiwen who has trained in Australia with some of the countries best coaches.
To accuse someone of doping in this day and age in sport is a very serious allegation and many countries have had their own issues with this problem in the past. China has been no stranger to this issue as well. However, what has not been reported is that the country, like the rest of the world, has been getting stricter on athletes who take performance enhancing drugs, handing down severe penalties.
The media has a responsibility to be objective in their reporting and questioning comments that are controversial such as in the case of Leonard and Clare Balding.
The fact is Ye has passed all the drug tests that have been administered, including the tests after her gold medal victories in London. She should be treated the same as any other athlete at the games who we admire and hope will shine.
Ye Shiwen is going to be around for a long time in the sports world and this whole doping fiasco should not be hanging over this phenom’s head during her career.
Channel News Asia
- Reuters – Unease, anger as Chinese swimmer fights doping doubts
- Sports Illustrated – IOC, FINA and others defend Chinese swimmer Ye
- Business Insider – Dangerous Boredom: Ye Shiwen and the Olympian Racists
- Daily Mail – China hits back over claims supergirl swimmer’s on drugs
- The Age – Don’t be too quick to question Chinese success
- The Guardian – Olympic record-beating swimmer Ye Shiwen defended after doping query
- CNN – China says West being ‘petty’ over Ye doping allegations
- Huffington Post – US And China Trade Insults As Row Over Olympic Swimmer Ye Shiwen Sees Finger Pointed At Michael Phelps
- Yahoo – Column: What’s up with China’s swimming success?