Tuesday, July 31, 2012


I 've always loved the Olympics.  Growing up,  watching those huge East German and Russian women with moustaches regularly winning their events all the while everyone "knowing" that they were cheating by using drugs.  (That and the Russian judges always scoring the communist countries better than the democratic ones were just part of the whole experience.)  The good guys and the bad guys.

Since the Rome Olympics 1994 we have had better drug testing and the WADA to enforce abuses.  But there were long periods when the Chinese were dominating track and swimming and then turning up positive for steroid use after the games.  Striping an athlete/country of medals after the fact is a way to deal with it - but I think it takes away from watching the games knowing that some of the winners will later be disqualified. It ruins the purity of the experience.

Now we have a young Chinese woman, Ye Shiwen, 16, swimming the last leg of a 400m race at a speed greater than a record holding male swimmer.  So eyebrows are raised, questions are being asked and the Olympic committee and others are calling it racist.  That's ridiculous.  If the Chinese have a history of drug use - one that extends to just 10 years ago, and they have a young woman swimming faster than a seasoned male swimmer, the system should kick in. 

I agree that all the sarcastic comments and innuendo are not sportsmanlike.  These issues should be taken up with the officials and the testing and whatever else should be done without prejudice.  However, to expect people to accept a super human effort as just "good coaching" is pretty lame considering the actions of the Chinese teams in the recent past.

The chairman of the IOC medical commission and WADA vice-president Arne Ljungqvist, was quoted as saying that if a surprise performance is immediately suspected as being a cheat, that "sport is in danger for sure." He - and several of his IOC colleagues - are worried about the "charm of competitive sport" being lost if exceptional performances are shrouded in suspicion.
I don't disagree in my heart, but the sad truth is that these cheats tend to go on for years before the questions are answered.  If we don't ask the questions, well that's the real danger to sports and the athletes.


hokgardner said...

I coached swimming at a national level in the early 90s when lots of the Chinese swimmers were doping. There was no doubt in anyone's mind of what was going on. Girls would show up for the first time at a big meet, set a new record, and then disappear, never to swim in a big meet again. The swimmers, the coaches, everyone, knew the score. The Chinese had mastered a system of making sure the athletes tested clean and still reaped the benefits of the steroids.

Given that history, it's not fair for people to yell about racism in this case. If it were a Russian swimmer, with the USSR's history of doping, they wouldn't be able to make that claim.

Sorry to rant. I know athletes who have been denied medals and slots at world championships because of swimmers who were doping. I get a little hot about it.

But my heart will always break a little for the swimmers in question. For the most part, they have absolutely no say in what is going on. They are just a cog in the great Chinese swimming program.

Susan said...

I agree! We hear about the long term effects of steroid use and these athletes feel they MUST use them. I'm sad for them. What must it be like to know you are cheating?

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I had forgotten about the Russian judges' scores.

It does seem to be a legitimate question when something is so out of the ordinary.