Olympic athletes go through rigorous training to become the best they can be at their sport. They also go through equally rigorous testing for performance enhancing drugs. The latest doping allegations in the Olympics surrounding Chinese swimming phenom Ye Shiwen will either prove that rigorous training has prevailed to produce the world’s fastest female swimmer or it may just prove that IOC testing cannot keep up with modern day peptide science that is capable of producing amazing athletic performances.
The controversy started when 16-year-old Ye won gold in the 400 meter individual medley with a world record shattering time of 4:28.43, which is a whole five seconds faster than her previous personal best and a better time than even the men’s gold medal winner Ryan Lochte. Then she shattered another record in the 200-meter medley with a time of 2:07.57. According to World Swimming Coaches Association head John Leonard, the times were “unbelievable” and “disturbing.”
“Any time someone has looked like a superwoman in the history of our sport, they have later been found guilty of doping,” he said.
Although the IOC, the US Swim Team and most of the athletes competing at the London games have come out in support of Ye, who has passed every drug test ever given to her, doping among Chinese swimmers is not without precedent. Chinese swimming superstar Le Jingyi won 12 victories at the Rome World Championships in 1994 amid allegations of doping which she adamantly denied. However, as the Chinese team went on to win 23 gold medals at the Asian Games, the allegations grew and eventually seven swimmers from the Chinese team tested positive. Also, Chinese swimmer Yuan Yuan and her coach were caught smuggling HGH into Australia for the World Championships in Perth and another three swimmers were caught using drugs at those same games. In total, 32 Chinese swimmers were caught taking performance-enhancing drugs in the 1990s. Most recently, Ye’s teammate Li Zhesi was banned from competition just months ago for using EPO.
As readers of Steroidology know, the science behind performance-enhancing drugs is constantly changing, with new breakthroughs coming every year. Is it possible the Chinese have developed a new protein peptide that can elude even the stringent testing done by the IOC? You bet it is. China is one of the world leaders and developers of protein peptide drugs that have amazing results and leave little residual side effects. The days of using anabolic androgenic drugs to beef up muscles are gone, replaced by the advent of drugs like Insulin Growth Factor, Follistatin, Growth Hormone Releasing Peptide and Mechano Growth Factor. These drugs tweak the body’s natural triggers to produce more muscle or inhibit the body’s natural muscle-reducing mechanisms and are all tested for by the IOC, but at one time were not.
As the Chinese, the IOC and many sports commentators rail against Leonard and the other people who have raised concerns over Ye’s remarkable performance at this year’s London Games with cries of racism, sexism and jingoism, it is important to remember that we have been here before and have accused many of our own American, male sports heroes of doping – only to be proven right. Athletes like Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire also passed stringent drug tests only to be caught later on as tests for doping caught up with the more advanced drugs these athletes were taking.
Until proven otherwise, Ye should be given credit as a talented swimmer with exceptional skill. Let’s hope that she is the amazing, naturally-talented swimmer who earned her gold medals in the spirit of Olympic sports and stayed drug-free before and during her training and competitions. But if it turns out that she and the other Chinese athletes are using some advanced protein peptide, the athletes will most likely (and deservedly) be stripped of their medals and shamed for eternity by sports historians, even though there is no magic pill that makes an athlete great no matter how many peptides one takes. But on the bright side of this controversy, if it turns out to be true, Steroidology readers may just learn of a new peptide that has remarkable results.