Backwash features short clips, gossip, letters and opinions. Contributions are welcome.
The controversial first lady of Irish swimming, Michelle Smith-de Bruin, announced in December that she would not attend the world championships in Perth.
The 28-year-old claimed that an injury from an automobile accident in October had hindered her training, and that she was therefore not well enough prepared to compete. She was spotted at the French Interclub Championships in mid-February, however, swimming for Melun-Dammarie. She won the 400 IM (scm) in 4:53.88, helping the club to their first ever Interclub podium; the women's team finished third behind Toulouse and Clichy.
During the world championships it was announced that Ukrainian swimmer Olena Lapunova is suspended from competing in national or international competition for four years beginning on Nov.15, 1997. Lapunova tested positive for Metandienone metabolites. In addition, Australian swimmer Scott Miller, who tested positive for Cannabis (Marijuana) in Sepetember 1997, is suspended from competition for a period of two months.
Each evening in Perth a star or "legend" of the sport was presented to the crowd. Included in the 20 second march to the podium were Dawn Fraser (AUS), Mark Spitz (USA), Shane Gould (AUS), Murray Rose (AUS), Krisztina Egerszegi (HUN), Vladimir Salnikov (RUS), and diver Greg Louganis. While many would have liked to see the swimming superstars given the opportunity to say a few words, some did make themselves heard in other ways in relation to the ever-growing problem of performance-enhancing drugs in swimming.
Shane Gould, a triple Olympic champion in 1972 and former multiple world record-holder, has recently started a campaign called "Clean Sport" with the help of the Western Australian government. The idea is to raise awareness among parents and athletes about drug use in sport and to promote drug-free sport as part of a healthy lifestyle. Mark Spitz, who won 7 gold medals at the 1972 Olympics, had harsh words for FINA in the wake of the Chinese scandals and called for China to be banned from the sport for 10 years.
The world's fastest swimmer in the water takes the bus. Just like the rest of the athletes, coaches, journalists, lowly officials. No limos for the greatest star of the sport.
The World Swimming Coaches Association has suggested that blood and urine samples should be frozen to allow future analysis once testing methods have improved. WSCA Executive Director John Leonard believes the move would help prevent further injustices of the kind that happened during the years of GDR dominance. Freezing procedures could allow a banned yet undetectable substance being used now by an athlete to be discovered later, when the substance has been identified. Such a protocol would allow for the retrospective stripping of medals and records, thereby acting as a deterrent. "Anyone using a new substance would have to think twice," said Leonard. "We need to let those that are cheating know that even if they're not caught now, there will be a price to pay in the future."
WSCA, whose Anti-Drug Commission has been one of the most effective voices in the fight against doping, hopes to pressure FINA for greater accountability of testing and urges them to investigate thoroughly the situation in China, from top to bottom. They also hope to support FINA's efforts to get extra funding for improved drug testing from the International Olympic Committee.
Last July, three months before the China National Games in Shanghai, three Hong Kong National Team swimmers had an agreement to train with Guangdong Provincial team in Guangzhou for five weeks. After they trained there for one week, suddenly they were told by a Guangdong Provincial coach that they must leave the training centre immediately. Non-Guangdong Provincial team members would not be allowed to practice with them since they would be entering intensive training to prepare for the China National Games. This is the competition where coaches, swimmers, provinces or regional teams can earn money for their achievements.
After considering all available information, I believe a systematic doping program in China is at the provincial or team (i.e. People's Liberation Army Team) level, not at the National level, at this time. (Except 1994 Asian Games incident may have had National level involvement).
Suspending the swimmers who have tested positive or banning the whole country will not solve the real problem. A problem in China is a problem for the whole world as that country has 25% of the world's population.
It is not an easy task for China's National Swimming Association to monitor swimming acitivy for over one billion people by themselves. I believe that the governing body for swimming has a great deal of difficulty in monitoring provincial and other teams.
We have learned from the fomer East German example that the doped athletes were the victims of the system.
The world should offer help to China, in solving the underlying reasons for drug use.
China will, I think, gladly accept help.
I have been involved in swimming in Hong Kong for the past two years. Hong Kong has a separate organization from mainland China in all Olympic sports, and are duly recognized as such by the IOC. Maybe Hong Kong can be the middle ground between China and the rest of the world swimming community.
Head Swim Coach / Pool Manager
Hong Kong Japanese International School
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