China Veto's U.S. And America's Flapping Lips Clare Balding Suggets China's Gold Medal Winner Ye Shiwen is On Drugs !
Surprised: Clare Balding has provoked allegations that she suggested the swimmer was cheating
A leading US swimming coach has become the first person within the sport to raise questions over Ye Shiwen's remarkable swim in the women's 400m individual medley yesterday. John Leonard, the executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association, described the Chinese 16-year-old's gold medal-winning performance as 'unbelievable'. At the age of 16, Miss Ye had just stunned spectators at the Olympic pool by swimming the final freestyle 50m of the 400m individual medley in 28.93seconds. 'No coach that I spoke to yesterday could ever recall seeing anything remotely like that in a world level competition,' Leonard told the Guardian. Not only was her swim faster than the 27-year-old American Ryan Lochte had managed minutes earlier to win his gold in the men’s version of the same event, it was part of an overall time a whole five seconds quicker than her previous best. 'All those things, I think, legitimately call that swim into question,' Leonard added. But he said he wanted to be 'very careful' about making suggestions of doping, but did add that Ye 'looks like superwoman. Any time someone has looked like superwoman in the history of our sport they have later been found guilty of doping.' His reaction comes after BBC presenter Clare Balding was criticised in some quarters for raising questions over the swim.
As Miss Ye Shiwen completed her extraordinary performance, the surprise in Clare Balding’s voice was clear. And she immediaely asked former British Olympian Mark Foster, who was acting as a pundit: ‘How many questions will there be, Mark, about somebody who can suddenly swim so much faster than she has ever swum before?’
Angered: Some users took to Twitter, with @aliwillson even calling for Miss Balding's sacking
Unfair: This user believes Miss Balding was wrong to broach the subject in Miss Ye's case
Defence: Others, including David Lloyd, hailed the broadcaster for her comments
Chinese swimming has previously been tainted by drug scandals – another 16-year-old world champion tested positive for doping last month – but Foster sought to play down any suggestion of cheating. He said: ‘It was a five-second best time and it was the way she did it as well. Bearing in mind she is 16 years of age, and when you are young you do some big best times… it can be done.’ But Leonard suggested that Foster's argument wasn't sufficient. saying: '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.' Miss Ye was more than seven seconds faster in the Olympic 400m IM final than she had been in the World Championship equivalent last July, an improvement Leonard said was possible, but very hard. 'But the final 100m was impossible. Flat out,' he said. 'If all her split times had been faster I don't think anybody would be calling it into question, because she is a good swimmer.
Playing it down: Former British Olympic Mark Foster dismissed the suggestion of cheating and said her young age may have something to do with it
Record breaker: Ye Shiwen knocked five seconds off her personal best and broke the world record by more than a second as she stormed to gold in the 400m individual medley
'But to swim three other splits at the rate that she did, which was quite ordinary for elite competition, and then unleash a historic anomaly, it is just not right.' Asked about the accusation that she was doping, Ye replied: 'The Chinese team keep very firmly to the anti-doping policies, so there is absolutely no problem.' Miss Balding’s question provoked a storm among BBC viewers on Twitter, with many praising her for daring to even hint at the possibility of cheating, but many criticising her for tainting the Chinese swimmer’s achievement and some even calling for her sacking. @aliwillson was outraged at Miss Balding's query, and said:'Ye Shiwen sets world record and Clare Balding immediate intimates she doping. Who the hell does she think she is?! #BBC pls fire her ASAP' Whereas @ImroTseng felt that Balding not questioning other record breakers' success in years gone by was unfair. But others applauded her for simply questioning how Miss Ye was able to record such an impressive time, and beat the world record by such a margin.
Medal winners: Ye Shiwen shows off the gold alongside the United States' Elizabeth Beisel, left, and compatriot Li Xuanxu following the final
Congratulations: Ye Shiwen hugs Xuanxu Li after her victory at the Aquatics Centre at the Olympic Park
GABBY FIGHTS SEXISM ON TV
BBC presenter Gabby Logan says she has been forced to battle what she sees as endemic sexism in sports broadcasting and is often reminded of the ‘high-testosterone’ environment of her male-dominated industry. Mrs Logan, above, said: ‘I’ve experienced sexism in my career – comments and situations that are specific to me being a woman. ‘It was quite apparent during the [football] World Cup in South Africa. I was staying in quite an isolated place, in a high-testosterone environment. I just wanted to go back to my hotel and read a magazine.’
Sky's cricket pundit and presenter David Lloyd was among them. @BumbleCricket simply said: 'Clare Balding a brilliant broadcaster' Last night the BBC defended Miss Balding’s comments, insisting: ‘The Chinese swimmer had just knocked five seconds off her personal best to break a world record; in her role as a presenter it is Clare’s job to ask the experts (in this case Mark Foster), how she managed to do it. There was absolutely no implication of doping.’ The success of China, which won more gold medals in the pool on the first day than it did in the whole of its own Olympics in Beijing four years ago – prompted further questions, with some fearing China’s sudden resurgence is a throwback to days of the 1994 Rome world championships, when its drug-powered women swept to 13 of the 16 available golds. In June Chinese state media said 16-year-old Li Zhesi, part of the country’s winning team at the 2009 World Championships, had tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug, EPO, which boosts the body’s oxygen supplies. The Chinese, who point out that their athletes are regularly tested, have gone to great lengths to ensure there is no chance of any of their athletes failing dope tests in London and are said to have even imposed a ban on them eating the food prepared at the Olympic Village. Miss Ye began her illustrious career when she was plucked from a primary school classroom. Teachers in China are trained to look out for pupils with promising physical attributes and noticing the seven-year-old had unusually large hands and long legs, her teacher alerted the local government sports officials.
Sensation: Ye Shiwen managed to swim the final 50m length in the race in a time of 28.93, a time that was quicker than the men's champion Ryan Lochte
She left home to begin an intensive training regime at one of China’s 3,000-plus state-run and funded ‘medal factories’, designed to transform talented youths into ruthless sporting machines.
Aged just 12, she was selected for the national team. She took her trainers by surprise at the World Championships in Shanghai last year, producing a devastating freestyle triumph in the 200m individual medley. Her trajectory caught Communist Party propagandists by surprise, but they have since given her the kind of profile usually afforded to more established stars. ‘Her career has been rocket-like. She’s one of the other great discoveries following the 2008 Beijing Olympics,’ the Communist Party’s newspaper of choice, the People’s Daily, declared.
The IOC's medical chief insists he has no reason to have suspicions over Miss Ye's performance. China's appalling past record for their swimmers failing doping tests has led to inevitable suspicions over the 16-year-old, who took five seconds off her personal best and more than a second off the world record in the 400m individual medley. The swim was described as 'insanely fast' by previous world record holder Stephanie Rice. But IOC medical commission chairman Arne Ljungqvist, a veteran anti-doping competitor, did not express any concerns when asked if he had any suspicions regarding the swimmers in London. Ljungqvist said: 'I am pretty experienced in this matter, as you know, and have been at the Games since a long time and within anti doping for 40 years. 'Should I have my suspicions I keep them for myself, first of all, and take any action, if so, in order to find out whether something is wrong or not. 'You ask me specifically about this particular swimming. I say no, I have not personally any reason other than to applaud what has happened, until I have further facts, if so.' The amazing improvement in performance will have alerted doping control officials however for target-testing.
CHINESE MEDAL WINNER HITS OUT AT TRAINING REGIME
Lu Ying poses with her silver medal
Another Chinese swimmer is risking contoversy of a separate sort.
Lu Ying, fresh from winning a silver medal in the women's 100 metre butterfly, used her post-race press conference to speak out against the Chinese training system.
< It was a rare display of criticism from one of the country's athletes. Lu, who went to Australia to train in 2008, said the tough regime in Chine did not offer enough chance for athletes to enjoy themselves away from the pool. 'In China we're used to study, study and train, train and then rest,' she said via an interpreter at a press conference following her race on Sunday. 'I think our way of thinking has many limits. In Australia I've been invited to barbecues with my teammates - that would never happen in China.' Athletes in other countries were not afraid to have fun as well as train, said 23-year-old Lu, whereas coaches in China would insist that athletes train and then rest and stay focused on the competition. China has risen fast up the Olympics medals table since it started competing fully in the Games in 1984, sweeping into first place when it hosted the Olympics four years ago. It has already made a strong start to London 2012, leading the medals table at the end of day two. Although China is known for employing unyielding training methods which begin at an early age, Chinese athletes rarely speak out against the authoritarian state. Lu Ying, a relative unknown, beat Australia's Alicia Coutts into third place in the women's 100 metre butterfly on Sunday, and was only topped by Dana Vollmer, who took the world record alongside the gold. Lu will compete again on Friday in the 4x100 medley relay.
Impressive: Miss Ye was back in the pool this morning and romped to victory in the 200m heats
London 2012's head of anti-doping Jonathan Harris confirmed: 'Enhancements in performance is something we focus on so we target those athletes.'
Rice, from Australia, would not be drawn on whether she thought Ye was legitimate. She said: 'I have no idea, I mean I wouldn't want to get into that at all, but a 58 is an insanely fast swim, but I know she's a good freestyle swimmer. Meanwhile, Harris revealed that cleaners and security staff in the Olympic Village had been briefed to report any evidence of doping by athletes, such as needles or discarded medication packets. "If they should come across any practices of paraphernalia they would bring it to our attention," he said. He added that the anti-doping effort was now heavily reliant on the use of intelligence with any new information discussed on a daily basis with UK Anti-Doping. Miss Ye delivered another stunning performance in the heats of the women’s 200m individual medley this morning. After covering the last 50m of her 400m IM faster than Ryan Lochte – and Michael Phelps – did his in winning gold in the men’s event, the teenager was in exceptional form again today.
Expect another gold: Miss Ye looks likely to land another medal in the 200m, after she won easily in today's heats
The 16-year-old was back in the pool for the event she won the world title in last year, and she produced another startling display. Miss Ye’s time of 2.08.90 equalled the mark she set to win gold in Shanghai last year and it was also 1.6 seconds quicker than any other qualifier for tonight’s semi-finals, among them Great Britain’s Hannah Miley. Of even greater concern to her rivals was the fact that she was clearly easing up in the last 50m freestyle leg. In the 400IM final she clocked 28.93 – compared to Lochte’s 29.10 – but this morning she covered the last lap in 30.73. Even so, she recorded the fastest time in the world this year and she was also just 0.45sec off the Olympic record. She swims again this evening before contesting, should she qualify, tomorrow night’s final. The world record is 2.06.15, set in the now-banned techsuits by Ariana Kukors in 2009. Expect Ye to break it.