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Focus On Liaoning, Host To China Games

Jan 31, 2013  - Craig Lord

Liaoning, the province that has just been fined 100,000 Yuan as the governing body in charge of China's latest doping scandal in swimming, is to host the Chinese National Games in September. 

Li Zhesi, 17, and a coach named as Wang Shun were suspended for two years each this week after the sprinter tested positive for EPO on march 31 last year. Nine months on, FINA had still not had word of the case from China, despite a Chinada announcement in June confirming A and B sample positives for Li … and despite rules that oblige all federations to notify FINA and WADA within 14 days of a positive test.

The ban, which was accompanied by fines of 5,000 Yuan (about 600 euros) for each culprit named, followed our report and questions in December and a pending question from the USA. In 2000, when then world record holder Wu Yanyan tested positive, she and her coach Wu Jicai both received fines of 8,000 yuan. 

The cost of cheating, in monetary terms, has thus fallen significantly within the Chinese system, even though the nation is among the few who do go after the coach as well as the athlete. What we are yet to learn from the Li's case is who else was involved: doctors, other coaches, officials?

Feng Zhen coached Li from a young age and was her coach leading up to Shanghai 2011 world titles, when Li won relay gold for China. Feng oversaw the rapid development of Li, who produced world-class speed at 12, as well as Li Xuanxu, Xu Yin and Yu Meihong, all world-class at 13 years of age.

When FINA announced the ban, it did not name the coach. The name came through 24 hours later after we asked for it to be supplied. The coach was named as Wang Shun.

Liaoning Provincial Swimming Association received a warning and will cover the costs of 20 anti-doping controls, or 100,000 Yuan (euros 12,000). Precisely why the province would land such a fine and under what rule that would be applied is not yet clear.

"Watch out for more trouble ahead," said a source who knows Liaoning well today. The province has a poor reputation on doping within China, while the National Games has long been a competition that has thrown up some odd results, some podium placers from the past never making it into international waters despite being ranked among the fastest in China.

One of the earliest positives from China in the 1990s was that of Liaoning's Chen Xi, a teenage girl who got caught at the China National Games in September 1993. She was suspended for two years but the actual substance was never revealed.

The questions run and run when it comes to doping cases in China, partly because of genuine communication problems but not least of all because of the closed nature of a country with such a poor record on doping and a growing reputation for shutting down the truth, as witnessed in this developing scandal at the New York Times.

Meanwhile, Liaoning Swim Team is reported to be in Thailand on a training camp with with Swiss coach and former Australia team staffer Stephan Widmer.