Drugs, China and Russia. Is swimming on a downward drug spiral?

China and Russia Doping Plagues Swimming News – is the Sport on a Downward Drug Spiral?

Swimming news this week has revealed that Chinese swim coach, Zhou Ming, has been training two of China’s best swimmers despite the supposed life ban. Just what is going on?.

In an article published in the Australian newspaper, The Sunday Telegraph, Zhou Ming was found guilty of systematic doping back in 1998. He received a lifetime ban from FINA; however, the news must have never reached China and some individuals in the community believed that the said ban was reduced to 8 years.

Zhou Ming
Zhou MIng whist in the USA.

A Walk Down Memory Lane on Zhou Ming’s Swimming Career

Looking back at Ming’s swimming history, there were allegations regarding his coaching techniques and the controversial death of Qing Wenyi who died in November 2015 at a national swim camp which, coincidentally, Ming was also present at the said camp. Qing Wenyi’s family did not request for autopsy to be done and was later cremated a few days after her death.

The article did not mention where Ming has been training swimmers which was quite disturbing especially now that the Chinese swim team has established a base camp at the Gold Coast, Queensland in Australia.

qing wenyi
Qing Wenyi, left (in glasses), with a team mate in Fuzhou [TV still]

Recently, Australia ABC has also published a story about the doping of Russian swimmers. It has become a bit worrying that swimmers worldwide are falling into a state of dysfunction and drugs are creating chaos for people who continuously do the right thing. The London Times has also reported that Russia has its own state-sponsored doping program. They claimed that Sergei Portugalov, the name behind the alleged massive Russian athletics scandal, was trying to push drugs into the Russian National swim team like a pharmaceutical rep. There was also the allegations circling around two of Russia’s top swimmers. The two swimmers did not receive punishment for testing positive on EPO.

As someone who has great passion for swimming, hearing these types of swimming news stories about the use of drugs in swimming clearly sparks my fire. It’s a disgrace that young kids who have become athletes at such as young age put all of their hard work to reach high competition levels and to go on to Olympic swimming only to cheat.

My apologies but I am not buying the claims of Yuliya Efimova when she said she had taken meldonium (the same drug Maria Sharapova used) for unspecified medical conditions. Pretty suspicious, right? Unspecified medical conditions? Well, if you are innocent, here’s a novel idea: specify these medical conditions and then you won’t have a case to answer.

However, the problem is that Efimova has been tested and found guilty for using a banned substance called DHEA, a steroid that has stripped off five European medals and led to getting banned from competing for two years which was later reduced to 16 months.

It is quite disappointing that such allegations exist. But I am hoping that in due time, WADA will be able to remove these cheating strategies from the swimming community and have a clean and fair competition once again. I still fear that the stories will overshadow Olympic swimming with results still be in question. It will not be the last we’ll hear of it.






Are the Chinese at it again?

What Really Happens at the Gold Coast Training Pools?

In the past few weeks, the Gold Coast training pools have been receiving massive waves of discontentment. As we all know, there is a contingent of Chinese swimmers In the Gold Coast training pools who share the lane space with Australia’s Olympic veterans and hopefuls. The challenges that need to be addressed now are the controversies surrounding some of the members of the Chinese contingent.

The contingent includes Chinese swim team’s Sun Yang, an Olympic 1,500 metre swimming champion who was suspended for doping in 2014. Another Chinese swimmer, Ning Zetao, the current 100m freestyle champion, was also banned in 2001 for doping. There are also other younger athletes who appear to perform beyond their age.

Sun Yang
Sun Yang post race celebration Photo: EPA

The Controversies behind the Chinese Swim Team and the Australian Swimming Community

While we do not want to make claims that they are actually dirty, we cannot take out the fact that some of the Chinese swim team members have been found guilty. And then there are the likes of Grant Hackett who gets tested once every four weeks only to witness Chinese swimmers getting tested once in 8 months.

In addition to that, Swimming Australia’s spokesperson have stated that they have only performed 4 tests from January 2014 to March 2015. Furthermore, ASADA refused to make comments. What adds to the controversy is China, Russia and Brazil’s refusal to undergo testing initiated by FINA. FINA intended to test the top 10 swimming athletes in every nation.

Olympic hopeful, Thomas Fraser-Holmes, has been silenced over his reservations about sharing the pool facilities with the Chinese swimmers. He was the first to speak about the issue that may have triggered the increasing number of Australian swimmers who are unhappy about the situation.

The Give and Take Relationship between Chinese Swimmers and Australian Swimming Coaches

On the bright side, China is a nation that takes pride of its talents. As Australians, we should be honored that they believe in Australia’s capacity of helping them succeed at swimming. They hire and pay large amounts for local swimming coaches which has given the lower coaches a chance to gain experience and greater knowledge.

Denis Cotterell
Denis Cotterell and Grant Hackett Photo: The Courier Mail

Australian swimming coaches who want to get their shot of a lifetime would not turn down such opportunity. One of the premier swimming coaches like Denis Cotterell gets paid bonuses of up to a million dollars for coaching gold medal swimmers. For the record, no one is saying that swimmers training in the Gold Coast training pools are participating in doping. Cotterell has no association with Yang since the latter’s suspension in 2013.

What Should be ASADA and Swimmers Australia’s Next Step?

I believe ASADA and Swimming Australia needs to get their ducks in a row and work on a benchmark for testing swimmers in Australia. When a homeowner invites someone his house and takes off his shoes, the guest should do the same. Similarly, Chinese swimmers should comply with the same requirements as our Australian swimmers according to Swimming Australia’s requirements and using ASADA’s testing procedures.