One of the few events I will take serious interest in during the London 2012 games is swimming. As a child, I was a competitive swimmer (nowhere near the level of the amazing competitors at the games) and still take a keen interest in the sport.
One competitor I – and many others – have been massively impressed with is 16 year-old Ye Shiwen from China. After winning the 400 metres individual medley in a world-record time of 4 minutes, 28.43 seconds, Shiwen was forced to deny that her incredible performance was achieved through doping.
Many people were blown away by the performance but several high-profile commentators and professionals have questioned Shiwen’s swim. Stephanie Rice, the former world record holder, said the swim was “insanely fast” while John Leonard – executive director of World Swimming Coaches Association – declared that the performance was “impossible”, “unbelievable” and “disturbing”, comparing Shiwen to an Irish swimmer who was disqualified in 1996 for using a body building drug.
The reason behind the scepticism is the fact that not only did Shiwen knock five seconds off her personal best, her final 50m freestyle was quicker than the winner of the men’s equivalent, Ryan Lochte.
I can’t say who has taken performance enhancing drugs but what this scandal demonstrates is the sad nature of modern-day sport. Whenever anyone performs well, there is a question over whether their success has been achieved fairly. The winner of Saturday’s men’s road race, Alexander Vinokourov, served a two-year ban in 2007 for blood doping. The fact that winners of events have previously been banned shows how prevalent doping is in athletics.
Between 1990 and 2000, Chinese swimmers failed 40 drugs tests. In 2009, five Chinese swimmers were banned and even in March this year, another 16-year-old Olympic hopeful, Li Zhesi, tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug. I can see where the negativity is coming from.
Maybe I’m naive but I really believed that all amazing athletes – swimmers included – performed so well thanks to hard work, determination and amazing coaches. It is sad that people resort to cheating and that every good performance is thrown into question.