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Yang Fangxu (left) and her coach Lang Ping. Photo: Handout

Why has Lang Ping escaped ban for volleyball star Yang Fangxu’s doping violation, asks Chinese social media

  • China’s iconic women’s volleyball coach comes under online scrutiny
  • Coaches of the other two athletes banned by China anti-doping association have also been punished but Lang is not mentioned on body’s website

The role of China’s iconic women’s volleyball coach, Lang Ping, has come under online scrutiny after it was disclosed this week that one of the players on the national team she coaches is serving a ban for failing a drug test.

Yang Fangxu, a member of the gold medal winning team at the 2016 Rio Olympics, tested positive in August last year for erythropoietin (EPO), which stimulates the growth of oxygen-carrying red blood cells in the body, and was banned for four years by the China Anti-Doping Agency (Cada). News of the suspension only surfaced on Tuesday, one year on from the failed test, when the agency announced Yang tested positive during an out-of-competition test and would be banned until September 2022.

Yang’s ban was announced along with two other doping cases involving Chinese athletes. In both of the other cases, the coaches of the athletes involved were also punished, but no action has been reported to have been taken in respect of Lang, and she is not mentioned on the Cada website under Yang’s case.

Athletics coach Li Yanbao was banned for two years after his athlete received a four-year suspension for doping, while ice hockey coach Wang Yongjun also got a six-month ban for being held responsible for her player’s behaviour.

2016 Olympic gold medallist Yang Fangxu, banned for four years because of doping. Photo: Handout

Lang is held in high esteem on the mainland. Nicknamed “Iron Hammer” as a player, Lang steered Team China to the gold medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games and the World Cup the following year.

She then led the team as coach to clinch a silver medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and second place at the 1998 World Championships before resigning and returning to lead the team in 2013.

Lang Ping’s life story will soon be turned into a film starring Gong Li as the legendary coach.


“Yang has been in the national team under Lang and the coach should hold responsibility [for] the player’s misbehaviour,” said a contributor to digital media platform Sina Sports. “I hope someone can explain why there is no action taken against the coach like other doping cases.”

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Another user wrote in the comments section that “Lang so far has said nothing about the case. Of course we know it has tarnished the reputation of China volleyball but Lang is her coach. She should say something.”

So far, Lang and the Chinese Volleyball Association have not commented on the matter.

Some online users also noted Yang had stopped “following” Lang on social media platform Sina Weibo, but continued to “follow” other members of her team.

China’s ‘country above all’ view comes at a cost for nation’s female athletes

“There must be something happening between the two when you stop following another,” one user said, while another one said “both Lang and Yang are victims of the case”.

Yang, 24, was a member of the women’s national team that captured a silver medal at the 2014 World Championships and won gold at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. She was also selected for the 14-member squad to compete at the 2018 Asian Games but did not go with the team to Jakarta.

China’s women recently qualified to defend their Olympic title at the Tokyo 2020 Games next summer.