China athletics is drug free, says sprint star Su Bingtian’s coach Randy Huntington after doping doubts are raised
Questions are asked after Su and Xie Zhenye break national record with personal bests in the space of a week, but well-known coach says country is clean
Chinese sportspeople have been subject to doping accusations for decades, but American coach Randy Huntington is adamant there is not a drug issue at the top level of athletics on the mainland.
Huntington, a well-known track and field coach who has been in China for four-and-a-half years, is the head coach of the country’s horizontal jumps team and also coaches star sprinter Su Bingtian.
He coached long jump world record holder Mike Powell and fellow American Willie Banks – a one-time triple jump world record holder – and also spent time in South Korea before moving to China.
“The beauty of it, for me at least, is that at the national team level I don’t have to worry about the drug issue at all, anywhere,” Huntington said.
“We don’t have a problem like that here. It is probably more of a problem in other parts of the world than we have at the national team level in China, which I’m pretty darn happy about to be honest.
“It’s my integrity on the line. I’m looking and seeing these guys come up the way you should, slowly, surely, technically changing.”
Questions have been raised – especially among athletics fans around the globe – about the merit behind the scintillating recent form of China’s top two 100m runners, Su and Xie Zhenye.
Both have broken China’s national 100-metre record within the past week, with Xie running 9.97 seconds to take the record from Su and shaving 0.07 seconds off his personal best in the process.
Su hit back with a 9.91, a time 0.08 seconds better than his previous best, but Huntington says a change in coaching is the only reason for the sudden spike in performance.
He took over as Su’s coach in November, while fellow American Rana Reider has been overseeing Xie’s progress since April.
“With the two of us, we have seen those changes, but we are not seeing the tactical changes in the rest of the Chinese sprinters yet,” he said.
“But it doesn’t do us any good to just have foreign coaches achieve this because we are gone eventually.
“What we really need to do is get the Chinese coaches to completely understand what we’re doing and how we’re doing it and let them have the success.
“We don’t need to have the success, we have had the success already. I want to see the Chinese coaches succeed.”
Huntington says the hope is to have top-level local coaches in place by the 2024 Olympics in Paris, but the immediate focus is the Asian Games in Indonesia in August.
China are well placed for 100m gold, but will face stiff competition from the Japanese and Qatar’s Femi Ogunode, who shares the Asian record with Su.
“I don’t know if Xie is going to run the 100m or if he is just going to run the 200m,” Huntington said. “They may keep Xie out and just have one run the 100m and one run the 200m, or they might put them together and try for a 1-2.
“The Asian Games 100m is looking like a really good race. In the past, if somebody went under 10 it was like ‘wow, that’s incredible’. You could literally get four or five guys under 10 in this race.”