Doubts should not tarnish Ye's gold

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 10:49pm


Swimmer Ye Shiwen has surged to the pinnacle of her sport, twice winning the most prized accolade an athlete can receive - an Olympic gold medal. It is the 16-year-old's moment in the sun, a time for acclaim, admiration and applause for spectacular record-breaking achievements. She is no drug cheat, as the doubters have surmised; stringent testing has proven that. Those quick to pass judgment should step back, look afresh at the Chinese girl's accomplishments and how they came to be and give her the praise she deserves.

Those who watched her in the 400-metre individual medley have every reason to be astonished. Ye blitzed the field, beating her nearest competitor by three-and-a-half lengths in taking one second off the world record and five seconds off her personal best. She swam the final 50-metre freestyle leg faster than American men's champion Ryan Lochte. Anyone unfamiliar with her career and not aware of her attributes and growth spurt could perhaps be excused for having the immediate thought that performance-enhancing drugs were involved.

China has, after all, an appalling record in the pool when it comes to drugs. During the 1990s, 40 swimmers tested positive for banned substances and another seven were caught before the Beijing Olympics. Times have changed, though, and huge strides have been made to clean up the sport. Commentators and officials like John Leonard, the executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association, who described Ye's 400-metre swim as 'disturbing', should have waited for test results to be released before putting what was on his mind into the public arena.

Research and ever-evolving training techniques mean no record can be considered unbreakable. China has hit on an especially successful formula in a number of disciplines, swimming among them. A feat or out-of-the-box performance should not instantly lead to the conclusion that an athlete is a cheat. Ye has achieved the remarkable and we should be celebrating that, not clouding a glorious moment.