Can Beijing 2008 possibly emerge untainted by doping? We doubt it...
Two days ago, we did a post on some interesting news concerning the Beijing Olympic Marathon, which included a story of how the third and final spot on the Chinese Olympic team for the women's marathon was claimed.
This third and final member of the team, who earns her spot on the team by virtue of winning the Xiamen Marathon this past weekend is Zhang Yingying. And in that race, the 18-year old Zhang, running her third marathon, broke the women's world junior record with an extra-ordinary time of 2:22:38. Her own Personal Best had stood at 2:27:20, which was set three months ago in what was her second marathon.
So we have a five-minute improvement on a PB, from an 18-year old who has little to no history of running great performances in an event that is typically dominated by athletes in their early 30's who have a pedigree of running on the track...
Would it be excessively cynical for me to immediately have visions of turtle blood and other doping practices? Yes, out of a nation of a billion people, it is possible that you'll get this type of talent emerging, but we're leaning towards the other option on this one.
Given the history of the Chinese for producing world class athletes powered by turtle blood, dried caterpillars, and other concoctions, scepticism might be well placed. It most definitely will not be the last time we speak of Chinese athletes and doping allegations in 2008.
Some interesting information from a reader
And then added to that, we received a very helpful email from a reader who is based in China (and runs his own blog - Run back by 7).
In his email, he referred us to the following excerpt from a newspaper:
Curiously, the Xiamen race winner Zhang and Bai Xue, the winner of October's Beijing marathon - who was the runner-up in Xiamen - were not included on the short list (of Potential Olympic Team members).So it seems that despite winning the Xiamen Marathon and qualifying for the Olympic marathon team, Zhang's place is questioned over the possible doping controversies...
"Though they have shown blistering form recently, they don't have the trust of sports officials in Beijing because of their link with Wang Dexian," said a source.
Bai and Zhang train under Wang Deming, the younger brother of the disgraced Wang Dexian. That relationship has apparently caused concern among the officials wary of any possible doping fallout before and during the Olympics.
What is more interesting to me is the emergence of another coach - Wang Dexian. The famous Chinese coach of the early 1990's was Ma Junren - he of the turtle blood excuse when three of his athletes tested positive for EPO! But this is a new name and I think the story highlights the massive problems the Chinese officials have.
To begin with, we assume that the officials are not complicit in doping, although it would not be the first time that a state-run programme produced results through systematic doping. But even assuming this, there are clearly massive problems. The Chinese system is so shrouded in mystery (to the West, anyway) that to know just what is going on is near impossible.
A few months ago, we did a post or two on the massive steroid bust in the USA - Operation Raw Deal. In that sequence of stories, it emerged that much of the world's banned substance trade seems to originate in China, where raw materials for the manufacture of undetectable, banned substances are freely available at ridiculously low prices.
Undetectable drugs, designer products that have likely never even been seen before by IOC laboratories, are almost certain to be available by the Olympic Games. Experts have warned that by Beijing 2008, "100 undetectable drugs will be available". Now, this may well be hyperbole, but even five undetectable drugs will create havoc with the Olympic Games and it's a very ominous shadow on the horizon.
The Chinese women of the 1990's - is there more to come in 2008?
The Chinese women of the 1990's came, saw, conquered, and then disappeared, leaving only unbreakable records as evidence of their presence on the world stage. Most people are aware that the records are suspect, but when you look at the facts and numbers, it jumps out just how unbelievable the year of 1993 was for women's running. Just take a look at the world records for the women's middle and long distance events:
- Qu Yunxia is 2 seconds faster than any runner not from China.
- The four fastest times in history are all Chinese and all were set in 1993.
- No one has run within 5 seconds of these times since then, and you know that the Eastern Europeans who used to hold the records here were tainted by drugs to begin with!
- The Top 7 times in history belong to Chinese women.
- All seven times were set in 1993.The next fastest person is a full 15 seconds behind the world record holder.
- Wang Junxia (also the holder of the 3000m WR) stands a full 30 seconds clear of the second fastest person in history
- The record was also set in 1993, the year of the Turtle blood and caterpillar treatment