Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen’s record-breaking gold medal performance should not be immediately associated with doping because that takes away the sport’s charm, the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) medical chief said on Monday.
Ye crushed her opponents in the women’s 400m individual medley on Saturday with an eye-popping performance, unleashing a sprint finish in her last two lengths that would have beaten Americans Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, two of the world’s fastest men.
She also became the first female swimmer to break a world record since the ban of hi-tech suits, wiping off more than a second off the world record set by Australia’s Stephanie Rice four years ago.
When asked whether her dazzling swim had raised suspicions of doping, IOC medical chief Arne Ljungqvist told reporters: “I say no, I haven’t personally any reason to other than applaud what has happened until I have further facts if so.”
Ljungqvist, who has 40 years of experience in anti-doping, said it would be a pity if surprise wins automatically threw up suspicion.
“Should a sudden rise in performance or a surprise win be primarily suspected for being a cheat, sport is at danger for sure because it partially ruins the charm of competitive sport if a surprise win is surrounded by suspicions and question marks,” he said.
“Of course should a sudden rise in performance occur in a particular person, we could regard that possibly as a reason to do it, but I would rather say that it is tragic if that should be the primary reason for doing a testing,” he added.
Ye, already nicknamed the “young general” back home after shaving an amazing five seconds off her personal best in her gold medal race, set herself up for a golden double when she posted the fastest qualifying time in the preliminaries of the women’s 200 metres individual medley on Monday.
She also brushed aside doping suspicions saying Chinese athletes were clean.
“My results come from hard work and training and I would never used any banned drugs. The Chinese people have clean hands,” she said.
The doping talk related to Ye quickly triggered a reaction back home with bloggers backing the swimmer.
“It’s not classy at all to say that record-breakers have taken drugs. It’s just jealousy,” wrote one user on Sina Weibo, China’s popular microblogging site.
“She’s just a child. Don’t be so beastly to her,” wrote another.
However, one user did express doubt at Ye’s breakthrough performance: “Maybe the Chinese have discovered some sort of new drug, for how could she suddenly have become this strong?”