Stop politicizing doping: observer

By Wang Cong in Rio and Yang Sheng in Beijing Source:Global Times Published: 2016/8/15 0:23:39 Last Updated: 2016/8/15 6:40:52

Criticism mounts over sports system

The online discussion over a Chinese swimmer who has been tested positive at the Rio Olympics Games has become increasingly politicized, as the focus of the debates in Chinese cyberspace shifted from sports to political conspiracies.

While the Internet is rife with criticism of the State-run sports system which some believe triggers drug cheating practices, some Chinese Net users claim that China and Russia have been treated unfairly because the West has political frictions with the two. Some said the foreign media only focus on China's and Russia's scandals but ignore those of other countries like Australia which also have a history of drug taking. They also called the people who refuse to defend Chinese drug taking athletes "traitors."

Chinese swimmer Chen Xinyi tested positive for the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide at the Rio Olympics, China's swimming association said on Friday. The news came as Chinese and Australian media engaged in a fierce spat after Australian swimmer Mack Horton openly called Chinese swimmer Sun Yang a "drug cheat."

Chu Yin, a professor at the University of International Relations, said "the Olympics Games is two-faced," because "despite its claims that sport is beyond borders, the game consists of different countries and winning gold is seen as a national honor."

This means you cannot cut patriotism and nationalism from the Olympics, Chu said. "China doesn't need the gold medals to unite and encourage its people anymore, not to mention using drugs to buy pride. Chinese Net users shouldn't take those scandals to a patriotic level," Chu said.

Some Net users linked Chen's doping test with Horton's accusation against Sun, saying there is no need to use patriotism to protect those athletes who made mistakes and China's "whole nation" sports system should be held responsible for the mistakes.

Huhaisanren, a Weibo user, said "you can't use gold medals to buy the respect which can only be exchanged by honesty."

Avoid generalization

In Rio de Janeiro, following reports that Chen had failed a drugs test, several former Olympic medalists called for objectivity in such individual cases and urged people to avoid generalizing them. 

"One can't throw out the achievements of the whole country or the whole program because of one incident," said Wang Liping, a Chinese race walker who won a gold medal in the 20-kilometer race in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

Wang said spectators should take matters on their merits and wait for the results of a second round of tests, which Chen has requested following the initial test, before making a judgment.

Chu told the Global Times that although China and Russia have similar state-run sports systems, Chen's individual case is different from Russia's drug scandal in which leaders of the athletic departments also participated.

"The Chinese government also has very strict anti-doping regulations to regulate Chinese athletes," Chu said.

After the most serious drug scandal at the 1994 Asian Games in Hiroshima, Japan, where 11 Chinese athletes, including seven swimmers, tested positive, the government ordered a policy of "zero tolerance for drug taking" even if China might lose gold medals. This means that any drug scandals in China are only related to specific teams rather than athletes across the whole range of disciplines, Chu noted.

He added that people should not blame the State-run sports system because of a few individuals, because it provides opportunities for the grass roots to use sports to change their life and even stand on top of the Olympics podium. 

Tight regulations

Rules are very strict on what athletes can eat and drink, and random tests are done very frequently on athletes to make sure they are clean, said Qian Hong, a former Olympian on the Chinese national swimming team, who won numerous world titles, including a gold medal in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Qian said the Chinese national team requires all athletes to return to their training bases, where food supplies are procured strictly following IOC regulations to eat even when they go out with friends.

In addition, random tests are frequently performed on athletes.

"They often wake you up in the middle of the night and test you," she said. "Some things were allowed before, but later prohibited, for example, coffee used to be OK, but now you can't drink coffee," she said. "You just have to know any changes that are made to the rules."

Relying on banned substances to improve performance is what all athletes, Chinese or foreign, who worked so hard for so long absolutely despise, Qian said.

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