If there is a black mark on any Olympics event, it’s often caused by doping use and/or doping charges. This year that black mark was almost a distant memory of Olympics’ past; that was, until Ye Shiwen got into the water for China.
John Leonard, the executive director of the American Swim Coaches Association, has been the first to point out that he believes Shiwen was using performance-enhancing drugs when she got into the water on Saturday. Leonard says that her swim that night was unlike any other that she had done during the entire week.
Leonard’s arguments revolve around the fact that the 400 meter, Shiwen’s first swim, was full of a kind of power and stamina that was just simply “impossible.” He backs up his statements by saying that she didn’t have anywhere near that kind of performance when she swam three nights later, during what should have been much easier swims.
“She backed off, obviously,” says Leonard, perhaps pointing to the fact that when Schiwen took things a bit easier in the water, she was already under suspicion for doping charges, and didn’t want to make them any worse. “She never took a hard stroke at any point in time. She was told to do what it takes to win, nice job. But if you look at the tape from the 400 IM, it’s two totally different swims.”
Leonard has both his share of supporters and critics in his allegations. “The swimmers themselves can’t say anything,” said a former Olympic athlete that was in London. “They’ll just look bitter. But something needs to be said.”
And according to a college coach for American football, who couldn’t comment on whether or not Shiwen was under the influences of drugs, said that her swim certainly “doesn’t fit with anything I know about physiology.”
Of course, not everyone agrees with Leonard. Some executives in USA Swimming have chosen not to comment on Leonard’s statements; but perhaps not surprisingly, China is the loudest in stating that Leonard’s comments are simply unfair.
“Some people are just biased,” said Jiang Zhixue, China’s anti-doping chief. “We never questioned Michael Phelps when he bagged eight gold medals in Beijing.”
And that may be true enough. Sometimes people really are just that good.