Hours after 16-year-old Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen gave her record-breaking performance in the London 2012 Olympics on Sunday, a well respected U.S. swimming coach questioned whether the teenager had been taking banned performance enhancing drugs.
The executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association, John Leonard, stopped short of accusing the teenager of “doping”, however, he called her performance on Sunday “unbelievable” and “disturbing”. He said it was “flat out impossible” for Ye to swim the 400m individual medley in her record breaking 4.28.43, making her faster than U.S. gold medalist Ryan Lochte.
Leonard said the fact that she is from China, which has been dogged by swimmers testing positive for illegal performance-enhancing drugs in recent years, makes him more suspicious.
The coach said Ye reminded him of Irish swimmer Michelle Smith, who won Gold in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, but later tested positive for steroids.
During an interview with The Guardian Leonard said “we want to be very careful about calling it doping,” but then he added “she looks like superwoman. Anytime someone has looked like superwoman in the history of our sport they have later been found guilty of doping.” He said Ye swimming faster than Lochte and finishing full seconds ahead of her competitors “legitimately call that swim in question.”
Ye’s total time was 4:28.43, a world record which was three seconds ahead of her closest rival and five seconds quicker than her own personal best.
Leonard is not the only person smelling something fishy about Ye’s performance. Australian gold medalist Stephanie Rice said the teenager’s performance was “insanely fast.”
Ye’s blood samples have already been taken, as is customary for all Olympic athletes, and will be tested, Leonard said.
Her sample will be kept for the next eight years and could face future tests as technology develops, he said.