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Olympic Ye Shiwen 400m Medley World Record at London Olympics clouded in doping allegations?

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Published on Jul 30, 2012

Olympic Ye Shiwen 400m Medley World Record 4:28.43 at the London Olympics recently is clouded in allegations. Chinese swimmer world record holder at london olympics. China's Ye Shiwen shatters world record to win swimming gold at London Olympics. Swam the last splits faster than both Michael Phelps & Ryan Lochte

Ye Shiwen beat out the competition in the final lap of the women's 200-meter individual medley, July 28. (Photo/Xinhua)

China's Ye Shiwen shattered a world record to win a gold medal in the women's 400 individual medley at London Olympics on Saturday.

Ye touched in at 4:28.43 to wipe out the previous record held by triple Olympic champion Aussie Stephanie Rice from Beijing Olympics by one second.

Ye Shiwen was nearly three seconds ahead of silver medalist Elizabeth Beisel from the United States, who clocked 4:31.27. Another Chinese swimmer Li Xuanxu pocketed a bronze at 4:32.91.

Ye Shiwen trailed Rice in the first butterfly leg, then overtook her after the second backstroke leg. Then Ye Shiwen was behind Beisel's lightning-fast breaststroke leg, but finally managed a devastating burst over the last freestyle leg to power home with a gold and a new world mark.

Rice, three-time gold medalist at the Beijing Olympics, was shut out of medals with a sixth place.

"I thought I had lost the race after the first 200 meters, but on the breastroke I realized I was in the top two or three and was confident I could win on the last leg," said Ye after the race.

"I have worked on my butterfly and backstroke since the World Championship, while freestyle is my best leg. Saying that, I never expected to break the world record. I dreamed of gold, but never the record. I am overwhelmed," said Ye Shiwen in tears.

Ye Shiwen, world champion of the 200m individual medley at Shanghai World Championships, was on top of the world after her golden night at the London Aquatic Center. It is the first world record set in the swimming events at London Olympics.

Ye Shiwen joined teammate Sun Yang in the pool to pocket two gold medals for China on the opening day of swimming events. In the men's 400m freestyle, Sun upset defending champion South Korean Park Tae Hwan to mount to Olympic top podium, making himself the first Chinese male swimmer to win an Olympic gold.


One of the big talking points in the media and over on Twitter was the observation that Ye Shiwen, China's 16-year-old 400 individual medley champion, swam the final 100m freestyle leg of her world record (4min 28.43sec) in 58.68, compared with the 58.65 by Ryan Lochte when he won the same event (time of 4:05.18).

Much can (and has) been made of this, and for many different reasons. The first, and the one that I will deal with right upfront, is what it implies about doping. It should come as no surprise that people will be suspicious. It's not just the fact that a world record was broken that arouses suspicion. It is that the record-breaker is only 16 years old, and has improved her time in the event by seven seconds since last year's world championships where she finished fifth in 4:35.

Also, and this has to be said, we regard swimmers from China with more suspicion. There are a few reasons for this and some of them, I do not condone. However, I do appreciate the suspicion — remember, this is the nation that produced a host of world-class runners almost overnight in the early 1990s. They came, they saw, the smashed world records that are yet to be challenged, let alone broken, in the women's 1500m, 3,000m and 10,000m. Then they vanished almost as quickly.

In the pool, history teaches us to be equally skeptical. Just this year, a 16-year old Chinese swimmer tested positive for EPO. In the 1990s, the same thing happened for swimming as happened for running — came, saw, conquered. But in that case, they got caught and then disappeared.

The doping allegations of the 1990s were largely confirmed by officials and sources who reported that doping within Chinese swimming programmes were widespread and institutionalised. That, in turn, would come as no surprise to students of the sport and doping. The practice of institutionalised doping began east of the Berlin Wall in the 1960s, and when the Wall fell, it just went further east.

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