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Old 10-27-2017
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Default China athletes massive doping dases

A former doctor for the Chinese Olympic team has revealed that more than 10,000 of the country’s athletes were involved in a systematic doping programme across all sports – and that every one of China’s medals in major tournaments in the 1980s and 90s came from performance enhancing drugs.
Xue Yinxian, a 79-year-old Chinese whistleblower who is seeking political asylum in Germany, also claimed that athletes aged as young as 11 were introduced to the compulsory doping scheme – which existed in football, athletics, swimming, volleyball, basketball, table tennis, diving, gymnastics and weightlifting – and that anyone who spoke against the system now sits in jail.

“In the 1980s and 90s, Chinese athletes on the national teams made extensive use of doping substances,” Xue told the German broadcaster ARD.
“Medals were tainted by doping – gold, silver and bronze. There must have been more than 10,000 people involved. People believed only in doping, anyone who took doping substances was seen to be defending the country. All international medals [won by Chinese athletes in that time] should be taken back.”

However, there is no chance of medals being retrospectively stripped because the statute of limitations has long passed.

Xue worked as a doctor with several national Chinese teams from the 1970s, but fled from China with her son after first speaking out against doping in 2012 and says she no longer felt safe in her home city, Beijing. She claimed she first became aware of the problem when a coach came to her concerned about the physical changes in male athletes, aged between 13 and 14, due to substances handed out by officials.

“At first, the youth-age group teams used the substances – the youngest were 11 years old,” she said. “If you refused to dope, you had to leave the team. I couldn’t do anything about it.”

She said she was dismissed from working with the national team for refusing to treat a gymnast with a banned substance at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, but kept working in lower-level Chinese sport.

“Anyone against doping damaged the country and anyone who endangered the country now sits in prison,” she told ARD. “They warned me against talking about doping substances. They urged me to back down. I said I couldn’t do that. They wanted to silence me … both of my sons lost their jobs.”

Xue claims that athletes were repeatedly tested until they came back negative – and were then sent to international competitions. The call sign “Grandma is home” was applied to those athletes, she said, who no longer had traces of doping substances in their body.

ARD reporters tried to contact the Chinese Olympic Committee and China’s sports ministry for a response to the claims, but never received a reply, according to the broadcaster. China has long been linked with accusations of doping – although never before on this scale. In February athletes linked to the controversial track coach Ma Junren, whose athletes broke 66 national and world records, said they had been forced to take performance-enhancing drugs.

In a letter published by Tencent Sports they wrote: “We are humans, not animals. For many years, [we were] forced to take a large dose of illegal drugs – it was true.” Ma always claimed his athletes’ success was down to hard training at high altitude in Tibet, turtle blood and caterpillar fungus.

The World Anti-Doping Agency is looking into allegations made by a German broadcaster that Chinese athletes benefited from systematic doping in the 1980s and 90s.

'The allegations were brought forward by former Chinese physician, Xue Yinxian, who is said to have looked after several national teams in China during the decades in question,' WADA said Monday.

Xue, who recently arrived in Germany and is seeking political asylum with her son, told broadcaster ARD that more than 10,000 athletes were affected, some as young as 11, and that anyone who was against doping was considered 'a danger to the country.

'And anyone who endangered the country is now in prison.'
The 79-year-old Xue said she lost her job with the national gymnastics team after refusing to treat an athlete with doping substances before the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

She said she had not felt safe in her home city of Beijing since 2012, when she first made her allegations of doping.
She first started working with China's national teams in the 1970s.
'In the 1980s and 90s, Chinese athletes on the national teams made extensive use of doping substances,' she told ARD. 'Medals were showered in doping.

Gold, silver and bronze. All international medals should be withdrawn.'
WADA said it will examine 'whether such a system may have prevailed beyond these decades.'

The first step, WADA said, was for its 'independent intelligence and investigations team to initiate an investigative process in order to collect and analyse available information in coordination with external partners.'
Xue, who continued to work at lower levels after being dismissed from the national team in 1988, said she was only approached afterward when athletes developed problems because of the substances they were given.
'One trainer came to me and said, 'Doctor Xue, the boys' breasts keep getting bigger,'' Xue said. 'These boys were about 13 to 14 years old.'
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Old 10-27-2017
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Forced state-sponsored doping revealed by China athletes who now risk loss of world records, titles and medals

A regime of state-sponsored doping has been detailed in a letter from world record holding Chinese runner Wang Junxia and the squad of nine runners nicknamed Ma’s Army to a journalist, mainland media reports.

Wang revealed in 1995 that she and her teammates were forced to take “large doses of illegal drugs over the years”, according to a report that surfaced this week.

After inquiries from the South China Morning Post, the International Association of Athletics Federations launched a probe into Wang’s allegations.

The probe aims to verify the letter and, if proven to be from the runners, has consequences for their titles, medals and reputations.

The letter was penned two years after Wang set two world records in the 3,000 metres and 10,000 metres – marks that stand today.

We are humans, not animals
She wrote about how the women on the team tried to avoid the state-run doping regime
by quietly throwing away pills forced on them.

But she said coach Ma Junren would personally inject the drugs into his athletes, who became known as Ma’s Army.

The letter, signed by nine teammates and revealing their anguish, was sent to a journalist named Zhao Yu, but it remained unpublished for 19 years.

LOOK BACK: In 2004 the Post wrote Stay drug-free, Chinese athletes told
“We are humans, not animals,” said the team members in one passage.

“For many years, [he] forced us to take a large dose of illegal drugs. It was true,” they added in their letter to Zhao.

The letter was published on Tencent Sports.

“Our feelings are sorry and complex when exposing his (Ma’s) deeds,” the letter continued.

“We are also worried that we would harm our country’s fame and reduce the worth of the gold medals we have worked very hard to get.”

Wang was honoured with a place in the International Association of Athletics Federations’ Hall of Fame for her “notable” achievements in 1993, when she set records in a bouquet of championships held in Tianjin, Stuttgart and Beijing.

In Beijing, she took nearly 42 seconds off the 10,000m race record, achieving a time no runner has been able to beat in more than 20 years.

The name of the “illegal drug” was not revealed, and Wang does not appear on the Monaco-based athletics federation’s list of athletes currently banned for doping. She retired from athletics in 1997.

A spokesman for the IAAF said the organisation would seek to authenticate the letter.

“The IAAF’s first action must be to verify that the letter is genuine,” said spokesman Chris Turner. “In this respect, the IAAF has asked the Chinese Athletics Association to assist it in that process.”

According to IAAF competition rule 263.3, if an athlete makes an admission of guilt then the association can “take action”.

LOOK BACK: Wang Junxia tells the Post she’s no doper, her success fueled by ‘eating bitterness’
After advice from the Medical and Anti-Doping Commission, an internal IAAF body, the athletes could be stripped of their titles.

Further, according to World Anti-Doping Agency rules, Wang’s admission could carry penalties such as disqualification of results, the imposition of a period of ineligibility, mandatory publication of the violation and financial sanctions.

During the mid-90s and under Ma’s coaching, Chinese track and field athletes set dozens of world records.

They destroyed any chance of any female human breaking those records in the next 100 years

Ma said his intense training regime in the Tibetan alps, a ban on long hair and dating, Chinese women’s perceived capacity for ‘eating bitterness’ and his exotic elixers of turtle blood and powdered seahorses given to his runners were behind the success, and has consistently denied the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Wang also ruled out the use of drugs as in 2004.

But others believed in the simple answer that performance-enhancing drugs were at its heart.

Two-time US Olympian PattiSue Plumer told the Chicago Tribune in 1995 that she thought drugs were involved.

“They destroyed any chance of any female human breaking those records in the next 100 years,” Plumer said.

The 1994 Swimming World Championships in Rome were besieged with rumours that Chinese athletes were doping as records fell, and after the national women’s swimming team appeared with deep voices and built-up physiques.

According to a team doctor, Xue Yinxian, experimenting with human growth hormones and steroids was “rampant in the 1980s”, she told Fairfax Media in Australia in 2012.

It was not just rogue individuals but a team strategy, she said.
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Qing Wenyi: How sudden death of a teenage girl throws doping suspicion on Chinese swimming

She was their only child, so maybe Qing Wenyi’s parents felt that the shock of her death at the age of 17, in the early hours of last Monday, was the most they could possibly endure, without beginning to question why she had been taken from them.

But her family are bright, inquiring, metropolitan people – the parents both work in the police service – and those coaches in the Chinese swimming establishment who told Qing they would make her a star have not expressed so much as one word of public regret. That’s why it was so curious when China’s state-controlled media reported, three hours after Qing’s death, that her parents had requested no post-mortem into her death at a Chinese national swimming camp. And why, within 48 hours, she had been cremated.

In a modern sporting environment, any governing body would want to understand whether an aspect of its training regime might have inadvertently caused, perhaps, a coronary problem. But there is an information fog swirling around Qing’s case, and that’s why the suspicion lingers.

There are unsubstantiated claims that her death was the collateral damage of a culture of doping in Chinese swimming, which is just as entrenched as the scandal engulfing Russian athletics.

The only source of detail on Qing is the “swimming management centre” of the National Swimming Association, which is not forthcoming. The small details we can piece together remind us, though, that amid all the polemic about failed governance some of these athletes are simply children.

Qing was the same age as my own daughter and, by every available account, absorbed by just the same things as her. Schoolwork featured. She discussed that with her mother on the night before she died. Social networks featured more. There had been contact with her friends in the last evening of her life. They were interested to know about her meteoric rise to the national swimming squad. She was certainly happy at 10.30pm when she last posted.

She did not live to see morning. One of her dormitory room-mates was awoken by what she has described as a “loud scream” from Qing at 4am, according to the Xinhua news outlet. A team-mate turned the lights on and rushed to the child’s aid but there was no response. A doctor was called, an ambulance summoned, attempts by paramedics to resuscitate followed but Qing was declared dead an hour after arrival at Tiantan Hospital.

Qing was not an official member of the national squad, though she had recently been asked to train with them, subsequently undergoing a medical examination which suggested no problems.

It appears that her performances had not been that outstanding a couple of years ago but then she took part in the first National Youth Games in Fujian province in October – representing the Beijing Shunyi swimming team – and promptly won gold medals in the women’s 100m and 200m breaststroke. Her times were impressive: 1:08 and 2:30. The work with the national squad entailed 1,000m sessions but nothing intense, according to a Chinese source quoted by the Swimming Vortex website.

The past few days, spent seeking links between Qing’s death and the miasma of suspicion surrounding Chinese swimming, have been frustrating. “I don’t think you can dig up any dirty links,” one highly respected local reporter who has been willing to work with me concluded in the last of our exchanges yesterday. “There’s no chance. Even as a local Chinese journalist I can’t locate any hard facts. The parents’ decision may not be so strange. In China people do respect the parents’ wishes.”

But there is a genuine fear that more children’s lives will be put at risk if international authorities do not apply the same forensic methods Dick Pound has demonstrated in his eviscerating analysis of Russia athletics. John Leonard, executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association, said last week in the aftermath of Pound’s report that his organisation has raised grave concerns with the World Anti-Doping Agency about swimming.

When Leonard raised doubts about Ye Shiwen, who was the same age as Qing when she won the women’s 400m and 200m medley events at the 2012 London Olympics, he received death threats, as well as criticism from Sebastian Coe. But the recent implosion of Ye raises grounds for suspicion. At the World Swimming Championships in Kazan this year, she came last in the 200m medley final, 6.03 seconds slower than she swam at the Olympics. In the 400m medley, she did not even qualify, with a time 14 seconds slower than in London.

The suspicions demand that sport, once and for all, commits to make the Wada, the organisation Pound once led so admirably, financially independent and equipped with the resources to fight doping aggressively, across all sports.

That was undeniably the most significant recommendation in the Russia findings last week. The organisation’s budget is a pathetic $30m (£19.8m) a year, with Russia’s immediate threat to withdraw its funding – a laughable £604,000 – serving to illustrate the farcical ordering of spending priorities.

Nowhere in Coe’s latest expression of self-defence, in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph, which opened with quotes from Edmund Burke, was there any mention of more resources for Wada. While Coe and others evade and obfuscate, coaches press unsuspecting and uncomplaining children into the pursuit of sporting success, dazzling them into whatever course of action they are asked because they are too young and vulnerable to ask: “Why?”

It was left to Anne Tiivas, head of the NSPCC’s Child Protection in Sport Unit, to cut to the core. “Such a tragic death,” she tweeted of young Qing last week. “When will current attention focus on the well-being of young athletes?”

Get well soon, Gary – I may need your expertise again

There has been many a time when I would ring Gary Carter, the deeply respected rugby league writer, feeling embarrassed to be casually alighting on his territory again, searching for more of his knowledge before moving on. He always wafts away my apologies, ready to impart some insight into the sport he loves.

That is why the story of the senseless and casual brutality he suffered when covering an England v New Zealand international 10 days ago was so shocking. He was beaten so brutally, in Bethnal Green, that he needed immediate surgery at the Royal London Hospital to remove a blood clot on his brain. He remains in a critical condition.

Rugby league’s response to this says everything about the ties that bind that sport so tightly together. We wait and hope and pray for the chance to hear Gary talk rugby league again, with all the usual passion.
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Old 10-27-2017
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Young swimmer who died in the middle of the night sparks new fears that China may have copied Russia's doping regime

Qing Wenyi died just a month after winning two national titles
The 17-year-old was cremated within 48 hours, without an autopsy
Concern rising that country may be subject to a systematic doping regime
Zhou Ming, one of the coaches most active in the widespread doping of the Nineties has begun coaching again in China
Suspicion around several recent performances by Chinese swimmers

Qing Wenyi screamed in the middle of the night, loud enough to wake her team-mate in the same dormitory room who switched the light on but could not wake the swimmer.

An hour later the 17-year-old, who last month won two national titles at the China Youth Games, was dead.

Within three hours state-controlled media reported that her parents had refused an autopsy to discover what caused their only child, an apparently healthy young woman who had spent the night before discussing schoolwork with her mother and chatting to friends on a social network, to suddenly stop breathing.

Less than 48 hours later Qing was cremated. There has been no official statement from the Chinese authorities despite the fact she was on a national-team training camp in Beijing at the time of her death, on the cusp of a senior international breakthrough with her sights set on the Rio Olympics.

While the sporting world is preoccupied with the appalling state-sponsored doping programme in Russia, it seems the other major sport of the Olympic Games, swimming, is desperate to keep its own dark secrets hidden.

The tragedy of Qing’s death has received little coverage beyond the excellent specialist website SwimVortex, but coaches within the Chinese swimming community have taken the rare and risky step of calling for international help.

Concern is rising that the country may be subject to a similar systematic doping regime as the Russian athletics programme which has outraged the world.

One death is of course too many and it cannot be proved that Qing’s was even linked to doping, but the fear is that more children’s lives could be put at risk if international authorities do not intervene immediately.

‘The death of Qing Wenyi and what appears to be the subsequent sweeping it under the carpet sounds alarm bells right at the heart of the system,’ a source told The Mail On Sunday.

‘This is not some rogue operator in the provinces. This is right at the heart of it, at a training camp with other kids which suggests absolutely old-style problems coming back. The parents were put under pressure to not have an autopsy.’

The Mail On Sunday can reveal that the World Anti-Doping Agency has launched an investigation after Zhou Ming, one of the coaches most active in the widespread doping of the Nineties — and a student of Dr Helga Pfeifer, a former head of the horrific East German doping regime — began coaching again in China.

Ming was supposed to be serving a lifetime ban from the sport but has reappeared and is coaching two teenage boys who are believed to have recently tested positive, including Wang Lizhou, the first Chinese swimmer to finish inside one minute in the 100m breaststroke.

Ming was described by one source as ‘the most brilliant cheater you can possibly have who has studied everything in the Soviet, Russian and East German system and got the best chemists in China to work on the problem with him’.

Bill Sweetenham, a former head coach of British Swimming, said: ‘Ming came and worked with me in Australia for one year and I was forced into this by a government agreement so I know him very well. He is a total cheat and was supposed to face a life ban and then a year ban and he hasn’t served either, the system has protected him.’

There is deep suspicion around several performances by Chinese swimmers in recent years, most famously when Ye Shiwen, who won the women’s 400m and 200m medley at the 2012 London Olympics aged 16. Cynicism raged after she swam the last leg of the 400m faster than the best man, Ryan Lochte.

At the time John Leonard, executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association, offered strong evidence that she could not have raced clean.

Leonard was then hit with death threats and had his home address published online in China, while Lord Coe — the IAAF president who has come under fire this week for being out of touch with the crisis engulfing his sport — criticised him.

‘It is not the first time that teenagers have broken world records or won Olympic titles,’ said Coe at the time.

‘You have got to be very careful when you suddenly assume that a massive and unexpected breakthrough in an event or a particular discipline is based on anything other than great coaching and extraordinary talent.’

But Ye’s subsequent implosion has given rise to more suspicion. At the World Swimming Championships in Kazan this year, Ye came last in the 200m medley final, 6.03sec slower than she swam at the Olympics, and failed to qualify in the 400m medley.

At 19, when you would expect her to still be improving, her decline has been staggering. She has denied doping.

One expert on Chinese swimming, who prefers to remain anonymous having uncovered previous doping scandals, thinks Coe’s response dovetails with the IAAF’s failure to grasp the scale of the doping in Russia.

‘Coe was one of the first to say you can’t point fingers at Ye Shiwen,’ the expert said. ‘Well, you should, it’s important because it protects young kids from abuse.

‘What we learned from the 1990s is that there’s a whole system of guinea pigs, girls experimented on with drugs so that the more talented kids could get gold medals on big occasions.

'What you’re left with is victims coming to court with their disabled children sitting next to them with club feet 10 years on and I suspect in China there are terrible things going on that we don’t know about.’

In China, the domestic swimming events are of paramount importance, with millions of pounds on offer in funding for the regional teams which perform best at the All China Games, much more than a swimmer would receive for winning gold at a World Championships.

Lord Coe, who has been accused of being out of touch with the crisis engulfing his sport, defended Ye in 2012 +9
Lord Coe, who has been accused of being out of touch with the crisis engulfing his sport, defended Ye in 2012

The stakes are even higher given the involvement of betting cartels, who put money on which eight swimmers will reach the final or get on the podium.

It is not rare for swimmers to be pulled out of the call room at the very last moment by those looking to fix races, something that would be unheard of in western countries, where access to a call room before a race is prohibited.

At the centre of all these stories is an issue of child protection and whether the Chinese Swimming Association and FINA, the world governing body, do enough to ensure the safety of young swimmers in China, who are a prized commodity.

There is a programme in the country where youngsters from the regions are brought together for a training camp. In 2005, about 100 swimmers allegedly disappeared after attending one of these camps.

‘Within a year of them all being gathered together they disappeared and we don’t know what’s happened to them,’ said a source. ‘They’ve gone from the system. Six or seven kids were at the top of the China youth programme, swimming world-class times and they’ve never been seen again.

‘Of course you find odd kids in France or Britain stop swimming but at 14 or 15 to just disappear from the map suggests something is up. Chinese Swimming can offer no answers and neither have FINA.’
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Old 10-27-2017
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THE Chinese coach Ma Junren revealed yesterday that 11 of his long- distance runners had their appendixes removed last year.

Ma's disclosure of the operations, which affect more than half of his squad, was the first detailed account of the reasons for their dramatic loss of form after a world record-breaking romp late last year.

It also adds to the mystique which has swirled around the team since their abrupt withdrawal from this year's grand prix circuit and departure from the public eye.

'We had to stop training last year because we were getting sick. We were having toxicological problems and that is why we are running slower times,' Ma said. 'Eleven of Ma's Family Army members had to have their appendices removed and they needed to recover from their operations.'

Ma, famed for feeding his squad of around 20 athletes potions of turtle's blood and Chinese herbs, did not elaborate on the causes of poisoning.

Leading sports doctors reacted with amazement to the mass appendix removal. 'It is remarkable because it is a very high frequency for a very small group of athletes in a very limited time span. It sounds astonishing,' said Arne Ljungqvist, the chairman of the medical commission of the International Amateur Athletics Federation, track and field's world governing body.

The Japanese team doctor Ichiro Kono said he believed there were 'rare' cases when intense training provoked appendicitis. 'According to some research, in very rare cases a highly active person undergoing intense training can provoke appendicitis,' Kono said.

Ma's women have baffled doctors, observers and critics alike since bursting into the spotlight at the World Championships in Stuttgart in August last year, and reaping a crop of golds.

The following month, Wang Junxia, one of the runners revealed to have had her appendix out, went on to lop an astonishing 42 seconds off the 10,000 metres world record at the Chinese championships. Her time was 29min 31.78sec.

Ma's record of stunning results have drawn criticism from Western coaches who accused him of using banned substances to improve performances, allegations strongly denied by the coach who says they are the result of advanced training methods.

However, Ljungqvist again leapt to Ma's defence, saying there was still no evidence of doping. 'I am totally against these unfounded allegations,' he said.
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In 1993, the Chinese women’s track team ran crazy; they set insane world records, times so fast, over such a range of distances with almost no recovery in between that, well, they were widely believed to be dirty. The women themselves admitted doping in 1995, but we’re just seeing the evidence now. The South China Morning Post reports on a 21-year-old letter allegedly written by the members of that team, telling how the women were forced to take “large doses of illegal drugs over the years.”

Written in 1995 by 10 members of the Chinese distance running team—including multiple world record holder Wang Junxia—to Chinese journalist Zhao Yu, the letter tells how their coach, chain-smoking Ma Junren, encouraged them to take pills, and if they refused, he personally injected them with drugs. “We are humans, not animals,” read the letter. “For many years, [he] forced us to take a large dose of illegal drugs. It was true.”

According to CNN, the journalist Zhao Yu included the women’s allegations in the form of their letters and diaries in his 1997 book “Revealing the Secrets of Ma’s Army,” but those portions were deleted, and then reinstated when the book was published again last year. It’s not clear why the women didn’t bring their revelations to other media outlets, or why Zhao Yu didn’t bring the women’s allegations to other authorities.

The letter was posted online this week by Chinese sports site Tencent Sports, and reported by China Central Television (CCTV) and other Chinese media.

The peasant women of Ma’s Army, as the runners were called, threw down some unbelievable shit: At the time, a 1,500-meter world record, the top six 3,000 meters performances of all time, a world record 5000-meters, and the top 10,000 meter of all time, all achieved over the course of five days at the 1993 National Games of China, most of those still standing 22 years later.

As if that wasn’t enough, previous to that Burning Man of track, in April 1993, Wang Junxia posted a world-leading 2:24 marathon, and in October 1993, four Chinese women, led by Junxia, swept the World Marathon Cup.

The crazy-fast times, the matter of hours between record-breaking performances, and the outrageous range of distances the women completely dominated stretched the credibility of everyone in the track world (except, ironically, the IAAF), but the coach and the runners insisted their success was the result of hard work and turtle blood.

If you go six minutes into Chinese media outlet SJNA’s interview below with then-1,500 meter world record holder Qu Yunxia, you’ll see awesome 90s track suits, Ma timing a workout, Ma hacking the head off a turtle, and Ma’s runners drinking the blood that pours out of the unfortunate turtle’s neck. Gross, but keep watching and at 6:45 you’ll see another hallmark of Ma’s training program—physical abuse. Following the runners on a motorcycle, the coach decided one of them wasn’t running fast enough. He grabs her jersey, dragging her to the ground. It gives a pretty good idea of the athlete-coach dynamic. The video was uploaded in 2011, but the video shows athletes who were part of the 1993 team. YouTube is filled with Chinese language news reports about the colorful Ma and his nearly robotic runners.

To further my understanding, I asked my friend, Yu-Ju Chien, who speaks Mandarin and Cantonese, to give me a summary of the interview. Here’s her synopsis:

He [Ma Junren] felt aggrieved and insulted regarding the drug accusations. The video attempts to answer why the relationships between the runners and Ma broke right after the incident [accusations of drug use in 1993]. Some believed that Ma was taking too much share of award money from the girls, and others think that the girls were ungrateful. Wang [Junxia] made two contradictory statements in two interviews which were only half a year apart. In the first interview right after the record was made, Wang thanked her coach for making her achievement possible. Six months later, she said that the training was strict, and the athletes were tired and their feet were very soar which made movement during sleep unbearable.

They often cried in private, but they did not dare to let the coach know. They thought about quitting many many times, because the sport was too torturous. Several years later, Wang recalled her experienced with Ma. She said that there was one time she was very discouraged and decided to quit, so she went to Ma’s office to tell him. Ma threatened her saying if she quit, she would have no connections, no money, no rights to register for marriage, and no rights to register her children. She said that she didn’t care. Their discussion was overheard by other team members. and later at night, several other girls came to her room saying they wished to leave the team with her. That’s why Ma considered that Wang and the other girls betrayed him. In the last piece of the interview, she said that she regretted not being respectful to Ma when she left. She thought that the tough training comes with the career she chose, so in some ways, she is still thankful to Ma for training her at the very beginning.
The Chinese women continued to put up amazing performances in the 1996 Olympics and the 1997 World Championships, though Wang Junxia and some of the other women on the 1993 team left Ma in 1995 to train under a different Chinese coach. Ma was fired by Chinese officials when six of his athletes failed drug tests prior to the 2000 Olympics. After 1997, the Chinese women have never come close to the times they posted during Ma’s reign. The Chinese women’s 1500-meter and 5000-meter records, thought to be untouchable, have been recently broken by Ethiopians, where, I’m perplexed to know, there is almost zero out-of-competition drug testing. Ma is now a dog breeder. Neither Ma nor Wang have commented on the recently surfaced doping allegations.

It’s a relief to finally have some evidence that what everyone thought was dirty, indeed was dirty. But the response by some media and the IAAF has been unsettling. Athletics Weekly, a respected British publication, headlined their article about the revelations, “Chinese world record-holder Wang Junxia implicated in state-sponsored doping,” seeming to blame the athlete. From what we know, the athletes were forced to dope against their will, and they tried to expose the abuse in 1995, putting their medals, reputations, and quite possibly their personal safety in peril, yet they are cast as the wrongdoers. Puzzlingly, there has been little condemnation of the brutal coach or the corrupt system responsible for human rights abuses, cheating and coverup of the whole operation.

Displaying hallmark pathology, the IAAF has warned not to be too hasty about accepting the veracity of the athletes’ letter. To get to the truth of it, the IAAF issued this statement: “The CCTV story confirms that the existence of the letter allegedly written to the journalist only became known yesterday. Therefore the IAAF’s first action must be to verify that the letter is genuine. In this respect, the IAAF has asked the Chinese Athletics Association to assist it in that process.”

No kidding. The IAAF is going to ask the Chinese Athletics Association, known for their openness, who no doubt had a hand in suppressing that letter for 22 years—whether the letter that detailed their system of forced doping is for real. The IAAF is going to ask the Chinese if they engaged in horrific state-sponsored doping.

I...I....I don’t know what to say.
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BEIJING — In track and field's 1993 World Championships at Stuttgart, Germany, a team of Chinese athletes known as "Ma's Army" left the other runners gasping at their out-of-nowhere performances that were as magnificent as they were mystifying.

The former farm girls from northern China won every distance event from 1,500 through 10,000 meters, then shattered three world records in the National Games at Beijing the next month.

Some believed their sudden success was due to banned, performance-enhancing drugs, but their eccentric coach, Ma Junren, said the secret was a strict training regimen of a marathon a day--and a special tonic of turtle blood and caterpillar fungus. Laboratory tests vindicated him, and a Guangzhou company bought the secret recipe for more than $1 million.

In this year's World Championships at Goteborg, Sweden, 17 women--six of them runners--from China will compete. None is from Ma's Army, and none is expected to stun the crowds as the team did two years ago. Indeed, only one woman competes in distance events. Whatever happened to the flamboyant coach and his hard-running soldiers whose fame was as fleeting as their feet?

Maybe it was the mass appendectomies. Ma forced 11 runners to have "preventive" operations on the same day. Or the way Ma "invested" the women's prize winnings and held onto the Mercedes Benz awarded to them at Stuttgart--for safekeeping. Maybe it was his throwing of a runner's suitcase out a fifth-floor window during an argument about her performance. Or perhaps it was just too much turtle blood.

Despite a year and a half of record-setting, 17 members of Ma's Army walked out on him last December, including team star Wang Junxia, who temporarily took over as coach.

"We couldn't take it any longer," Wang told Reuters. "We had no freedom. We were on the brink of going crazy. The pressure was too intense."

The team's workout schedule started at 4:30 a.m. with a 23-kilometer (14.7-mile) run before breakfast, as Ma trailed in his car. After a strategy session and lunch, the women ran another 20 kilometers (12.8 miles) around a track. By the time lights went out at 8:30 p.m., the women had run the equivalent of a marathon--every day.

"I don't allow them to make phone calls, watch TV, meet friends or do interviews before a big contest," Ma explained.

Men, makeup and long hair simply got in the way. "Sometimes I am very hard on them and even have to beat them so they can overcome their laziness," he said. "I know some of my techniques are too rough. But my intentions are good."

For runners such as Wang, good intentions weren't enough. The world-record holder in the women's 3,000 and 10,000 meters, and winner of the 1994 Jesse Owens Award, said she always felt ill. In addition, she charged Ma with abuse and mismanaging the athletes' money. Always the front-runner, she led the rest of the group to the Liaoning track and field team, where they resumed training under Coach Mao Dezhen.

Under their new regime, the former champions have not done well and are mocked in Chinese newspapers for forsaking their mercurial coach and the country's glory. A Shanghai newspaper called the team "soft" and "undisciplined" after it lagged five minutes behind Japan in Beijing's international road relay in March. "Go home to Ma," one headline read.

Ma said: "They are training unsystematically. They are not running a marathon a day any more."

Of his medalists from the 1993 World Championships, only one, Wang, qualified for Goteborg in this year's national meet. But her time in the 5,000 was so non-competitive on the world level that the Chinese federation decided not to send her.

"It is impossible for her to beat the world in the way she did during the last championships," a Chinese official told the Shanghai Daily Liberation. "It would be a big shame if she went to Goteborg and achieved miserable results."

Only two years ago, the world's six fastest women in the 1,500, 12 fastest in the 3,000 and seven fastest in the 10,000 were Chinese. This year, Chinese women do not rank among the world's top 50 in the 1,500 and 3,000 or among the top 30 in the 10,000.

"Now, all they are is numbers in a book," Ireland's Sonia O'Sullivan, among the favorites in the 1,500 and 5,000 at Goteborg, told the Chicago Tribune. "There are no people to match the numbers. They have vanished."

The chain-smoking Ma, too, has had a rough spell since the split. He became ill with throat cancer, was injured in a car crash, and his father died. Fed up with his flamboyant ways and mounting commercial interests, Chinese officials stripped him of his post.

Not one to quit a race, Ma has assembled a new group of foot soldiers in Dalian to make up another Ma's Army, and the ranks include a few familiar faces.

Wang Yuan, the world 800- and 1,500-meter champion, made a carefully brokered comeback to Ma's camp last month. Another runner, Bai Yu, was sent back by her parents. Qu Yunxia, who also set records at 1,500 meters, never left.

Ma always thought they'd come running back but has given a cool reception to those who re-enlisted. "When they left, their minds left, too," he told the Xinmin Evening News. "Now they're the same as newcomers."

Ma said it usually takes 10 years to build a championship team, though he can do it in four. But even with his super powers, China will not be a running force again for a while, he said.

In the meantime, pass the caterpillar fungus.
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Chinese badminton player free to compete again after drugs ban backdated

Yu Xiaohan is free to compete after a seven-month drugs ban was backdated ©Getty Images
China's Yu Xiaohan, has received a seven-month suspension from the Badminton World Federation (BWF) after testing positive for a banned performance-enhancing drug.

She is free to compete immediately, however, because her ban has been backdated to last July.

Yu was stripped of the two silver medals she won at last year's Summer Universiade after she failed an in-competition test for banned diuretic furosemide.

She had won her silver medals in the women's doubles and mixed team events at the Games in the South Korean city,

Yu Xiaohan has been stripped of the Universiade silver medal she won in the women's doubles at Gwangju 2015 following a positive test for drugs ©YouTube
Yu, a former Singapore Open champion, claimed she had ingested the prohibited substance in a supplement had been taking and should receive a reduced sentence.

Following arguments and evidence from Yu’s legal representative, the BWF Doping Hearing Panel decided to ban her for only seven months, instead of four-years which they could have done under the World Anti-Doping Code.

“In the athlete’s favour, it is the Panel’s opinion that Ms Yu did not take the pill to cheat or to gain a performance-enhancing advantage," a BWF spokeswoman said following the hearing.

Yu's sentence was backdated to the time of the offence on July 12 last year, meaning her ban will officially end today and she can resume competing tomorrow.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), however, could still review the decision and appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport for a longer sanction.

"We will review the reasons for the decision and subsequently decide whether or not to use our independent right of appeal to CAS," a spokesman for WADA told insidethegames.
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Liu Chunhong of China sets a new world record in the 125-kg snatch of the women's 69-kg weightlifting event at the Olympic Games in Beijing

Do China’s Olympic Drug Cheats Know They’re Doping?

Four years ago, just down the street from the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, Liu Chunhong was heaving discs of metal into the air, just as she had done from the time she was a little girl. By the time I met the Chinese weightlifter, she was already a legend, a double Olympic champion and world-record holder in the 69-kg weight class. Liu stood at the apex of the Chinese state sports system, which had fashioned world champions out of hundreds of thousands of children in government-run sports academies. The goal of this massive enterprise? To bring China international glory through Olympic gold.

Who Is Larry Nassar, the Former USA Gymnastics Doctor McKayla Maroney Accused of Sexual Abuse?
Chinese sports czars funneled money to pursuits like weightlifting, which are less lavishly funded in other nations. They compelled child athletes to do little else but train. “You want to know why China is so good at women’s weightlifting?” a national team coach, Xu Jingfa, told me in 2012. “It’s simple. We do everything together, and we work harder than everyone else. What time to wake up, what time to sleep, how to train, what to eat, how to think — it’s all set by our team leaders.” In fact, in a lifetime of attending weightlifting competitions across the globe, Liu had only been given a single day off for sightseeing: a glorious few hours in Paris. She hadn’t had time to climb the Eiffel Tower but she did manage to take a picture of it. It was, Liu said, one of her most-valued possessions.
Read More: Inside the System That Turned China Into the Most Dominant Divers in the World
On Wednesday, Liu and two other Chinese Olympic gold medalists, Chen Xiexia and Cao Lei, were busted when doping retests came up positive on their samples from the 2008 Beijing Games. (Eight other 2008 weightlifting medalists from other nations were also snared.) If the test results are upheld — Liu’s samples showed traces of two banned substances, GHRP-2 and sibutramine — the lifters will be stripped of their medals. The Chinese weightlifting association said it was “shocked” by the doping results and told state media it would cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

Doping is a scourge across weightlifting, and China is hardly the only offender. The Beijing weightlifting retests implicated medalists from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. At the Rio Games earlier this month, the first Olympic medalist to be stripped of a medal for a failed drug test was a weightlifter from Kyrgyzstan. Nor is the sport the only one to suffer from drug cheats. In the run-up to Rio and during the competition itself, everyone from a canoeist and a cyclist to a steeplechaser and a Kenyan coach posing as an athlete were nabbed by antidoping officials.

Read More: China's Disposable Athletes
Nevertheless, there is a difference between individuals who choose to pump themselves full of banned substances — Americans Lance Armstrong and Marion Jones, to take but two high-profile examples — and those who are part of state-sponsored sports systems that give athletes minimal control over their bodies. That was the case with East Germany, for instance, which pumped its female swimmers so full of steroids they resembled men. It was the case with Russia, whose doping offenses, particularly in track and field, were so prevalent that the International Olympic Committee banned part of the nation’s delegation from Rio.

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And it was also the case with China, where the nation’s 1990s swimming success was followed by a slew of positive drug tests. (A Chinese swimmer was disqualified from Rio as well, for a doping offense.) When a new test for a banned blood booster was announced shortly before the 2000 Sydney Games, nearly the entirety of China’s victorious fleet of long-distance runners suddenly elected to stay home. Whistle-blowers are rare but Zhou Chunlan, a onetime weightlifting national champion, remembers swallowing pills during training without having any idea what they were. Eventually, she grew a beard. “Everything is for the gold medals,” she tells TIME, of the Chinese sports system, which she says filled her body with so many male hormones that she became infertile.

Read More: Is It Really Fair to Call Chinese Swimmer Sun Yang a Drug Cheat?
While China topped the champions’ table during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, besting the U.S. for the first time with 51 gold medals, the nation’s harvest has declined since that hometown heyday. In Rio, despite sending its largest Olympic delegation ever, China claimed 26 gold medals, a disappointing third-place finish. Britain, with only a fraction of China’s population, took the No. 2 gold-medal position, behind the U.S. with 46 gold medals. The Rio letdown has catalyzed public discussion in China about whether a nation’s self-worth should be measured in Olympic gold medals. For years now, fewer Chinese parents have been willing to sacrifice their kids for a sports system that skimps on academics and can only ensure success for a tiny fraction of athletes.
If Liu and the other Chinese weightlifters are stripped of their Beijing gold medals, the question remains: Did they have any choice in any doping? Liu, who was originally selected as a judo athlete, has toiled in the state sports system since she was a little girl. (Four years ago, she was receiving less than $10,000 in annual salary for her record-breaking contributions to the state.) Eight years ago, I visited a shabby sports school in eastern Shandong province where young weightlifters spent the days in a clanging gym in lieu of primary school. After training, the kids, with their callused and chalk-stained hands, walked up to a table lined with paper cups. Each cup held a few pills, which they swallowed, one after the other, with gulps of warm water.What were the pills for? I asked one girl. “It’s medicine to make me strong,” she told me. An alarmed coach intervened, described the pills as “natural herbs” and tried to hustle me from the room. When I asked if I could take one of the pills home with me — I wanted to see whether it really was just herbs — he refused. His excuse? They were too expensive to waste on someone not in the Chinese sports system.

Doping in China

China (officially the People's Republic of China (PRC)) conducted a state sanctioned doping programme on athletes in the 1980s and 1990s. The majority of revelations of Chinese doping have focused on swimmers. The doping programme has been explained as a by-product of the "open door" policy which saw the rapid expansion within China of modern cultural and technological exchanges with foreign countries.[1]
Bioethicist Maxwell J. Mehlman in his 2009 book The Price of Perfection, states that "In effect China has replaced East Germany as the target of Western condemnation of state-sponsored doping".[2]:134 Mehlman quotes an anthropologist as saying that "When China became a 'world sports power', American journalists found it all too easy to slip China into the slot of the 'Big Red Machine' formally occupied by Eastern bloc teams".[2]:134

Weightlifting, 1997[edit]
One early revelation of the issue of doping in China came in the aftermath of the women's weightlifting competition at the 1997 edition of the country's National Games. Two Americans, conservative pundit Steve Sailer and sports physiologist Stephen Seiler, noted that "tough drug testing is politically impossible" at the Games, and summarized the events there:[3]
The 1997 Games in Shanghai were such a bacchanal of doping that all 24 women's weightlifting records were broken, but weightlifting's governing officials had the guts to refuse to ratify any of these absurd marks.

Chinese swimming performances in the 1990s[edit]
In 1992 the number of Chinese swimmers in the top 25 world rankings soared from a plateau of less than 30 to 98, with all but 4 of the 98 swimmers female. Their improvement rate was much better than could have been expected as a result of normal growth and development. China subsequently performed beyond expectations to win 12 gold medals at the 1994 World Aquatics Championships amid widespread suspicions of doping.[4] Chinese swimmers won 12 of 16 gold medals at the 1994 championships and set five world records.[5]

Between 1990 and 1998, 28 Chinese swimmers tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, almost half the world total of drug offenders in sport.[5] Seven swimmers tested positive for steroids at the Asian Games in Hiroshima in late 1994, these positive tests badly affected the squad to the extent that it won only one swimming gold at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.[4] Following the revelations of doping among Chinese swimmers at the Hiroshima games IOC Medical Commission chairman Alexandre de Mérode discounted the possibility of officially sanctioned Chinese doping stating that the results were "accidents that could happen anywhere".[6] Chinese leaders initially blamed racist sports officials in Japan for manufacturing test results.[6] A report by a joint International Swimming Federation and Olympic Council of Asia delegation to Beijing in 1995 concluded that "there is no evidence that the Chinese are systematically doping athletes".[6] The revelations led to Australian, American, Canadian and Japanese sports officials voting against Chinese participation at the 1995 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships.[6] In 1995 the Chinese People's Daily newspaper published an anti-doping policy and proclaimed an official prohibition on performance-enhancing substances.[6]

China improved in swimming until 1998 when four more positive tests and the discovery of human growth hormone (HGH) in the swimmer Yuan Yuan's luggage at the 1998 World Aquatics Championships in Perth, Australia.[2]:126[4] In the routine customs check on the swimmer's bag, enough HGH was discovered to supply the entire women's swimming team for the duration of the championships.[4] Only Yuan Yuan was sanctioned for the incident, with speculation that this was connected to the nomination of Juan Antonio Samaranch by China for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.[2]:126 Tests in Perth found the presence of the banned diuretic masking agent triamterine in the urine of four swimmers, Wang Luna, Yi Zhang, Huijue Cai and Wei Wang.[5] The swimmers were suspended from competition for two years, with three coaches associated with the swimmers, Zhi Cheng, Hiuqin Xu and Zhi Cheng each suspended for three months.[5]
Zhao Jian, the deputy director-general of the China Anti-Doping Agency described the 1998 World Aquatic Championships as a "bad incident", and said that it had led to China adopting a tougher attitude towards drug testing, with drug testing removed from the main sports administration and placed in a separate agency.[4]
The Hiroshima games also saw a hurdler, a cyclist and two canoeists test positive for the steroid dihydrotestosterone.[7]

Chen Zhangho and Xue Yinxian revelations[edit]
In a July 2012 interview published by the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, Chen Zhangho, the lead doctor for the Chinese Olympic team at the Los Angeles, Seoul and Barcelona Olympics told of how he had tested hormones, blood doping and steroids on about fifty elite athletes.[4] Chen also accused the United States, the Soviet Union and France of using performance-enhancing drugs at the same time as China.[4] Chen also blamed foreign experts for "lying" to the Chinese about the effectiveness of doping, saying he and others "blindly believed them like fools".[4] The Chinese officials eventually concluded that training was the key to performance and that taking drugs did not guarantee this.[4]

Chen said that half of the athletes found doping effective and half did not, adding that he had steered away from growth hormones to steroids because they were cheaper.[4] Chen said he was governed by three principles, that the athlete took the substances voluntarily, that no harm was caused and that they were effective.[4]

Xue Yinxian, former chief doctor for the Chinese gymnastics team, had previously told the newspaper that official use of steroids and growth hormone was "rampant" in the 1980s.[4] Xue claimed that steroids and human growth hormones were officially treated as part of "scientific training", and athletes often did not know what they were being injected with.[4] Xue did not allege that all Chinese athletes used drugs and has refrained from naming individual athletes.[4]

Individual Chinese doping cases[edit]
Yang Aihua - testosterone[8]
Sun Yang - trimetazidine
Wu Yanyan – anabolic steroids[9]
Li Zhesi – erythropoietin (EPO)[10]
Ouyang Kunpeng [11]
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rightWhen China set up its sports and athletics program it followed the Soviet model for athletic development, and established a system in which promising youngsters were selected at a young age and sent to special state-sponsored "boot-camp-style" training centers, where they endured rigorous training programs and were prepared for international competition. Scouts from various sports crisscross the country looking for athletes with proper physique and skills.

China has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on sports academies, talent scouts, psychologists, foreign coaches and latest technology and science. China puts particular emphasis on developing programs in sports that have a lot events and give lots of medals such as shooting, gymnastics, swimming, rowing and track and field.

By the time of the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, China had spent an estimated $260 million to develop a national sports program. That year it won only five gold medals, yet many young athletes had entered the system who would do well in future Olympics. In 1992, China placed forth in the total medal count

In preparation for the Beijing Olympics more than 30,000 athletes are training full time, five times more than the number who will actually compete.

Websites and Resources

Good Websites and Sources on the Olympics in China: Chinese Olympic Committee ; on China's Olympic History ; Database on Olympic Athletes ; Success of Chinese Athletes ; Photos of Chinese Kids Training ; Book: Olympic Dreams by Wu Guoqi ; The Red Face, a Film About Olympic Training Epoch Times ; High Altitude Training ; Book: Olympic Dreams: China and Sports, 1895-2008 by Xu Gouqi

Good Websites and Sources on Sports in China: Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; China Sports Today ; China Daily Sports ; China Sports Review ; China Sports Blog ; South China Morning Post Sports ; Sports in Ancient China Chinese Olympic Committee ; Traditional Sports Travel China Guide


Chinese Olympic Training Facilities

Today, around 300,000 athletes, including 96 percent of China's national champions, are trained at China's 150 elite sports camps, like the Wuhan Institute of Physical Education and the Zheijiang Provincial Physical Education and Sports School in Hangzhou, and tens of thousands of smaller local training centers. The Haigen Sports Training Base in Kunming is the largest sports training camp in China. An additional 3,000 sports schools are responsible for identifying and nurturing talent.

The National Training Center is Beijing is comprised of a number of large buildings, some modern, some drab. Guards check the IDs of people entering the facility. Guards are posted outside each building. Olympic swimming hopefuls train at a military base in Guangzhou. Distance runners put in high altitude miles in restricted regions of Tibet.

The Shanghai Sports School, where Olympic-gold-medal-winning hurdler Liu Xiang trains, is comprised mostly of 20-year-old buildings that look 20 years older. Photos celebrating Liu's world record are posted everywhere. A large sign read: BE POSITIVE, WORK HARD, CLIMB THE HIGH MOUNTAIN, WIN GLORY FOR THE COUNTRY.

Olympic Training Schools in China

In China there are more than 3,000 government-run sports schools, 20 major programs and 200 smaller programs. These schools and programs have produced nearly all of China's Olympics athletes. About 400,000 students were enrolled in sports schools in 2005.

Only about one in eight of sports school students make it to a provincial team. Of these a third eventually make it to the national team and about a fifth of national team members become Olympians-in-training but only about one in eight of these actually make the cut to the Olympics. This means that for every 900 pre-teens who join the sports school system 899 never make it to the Olympics.

Wu Yigang, a professor at Shanghai University, told the Washington Post, the Chinese sports school system is “very good at finding sports talent. It meets the demand of our nation to make achievements in a very short time." But on the other hand: “The Chinese way of training is problematic. These schools emphasize only training and neglect everything else...It greatly affects children's knowledge and their moral outlook."

Some schools stress only sports and can be viewed as little more than athlete-producing assembly lines. They often require six hours of training or more a day. Many Chinese athletes have devoted so much of their time to training they can't read beyond the fifth grade level. Weifang City Sports School is comprised of a collection of moldy concrete buildings and gyms that smell of sweat and urine and dirt playing fields. Students sleep eight to a room on iron bunk beds and often collapses there, exhausted, during their brief afternoon break. The school has its own propaganda director and a bulletin board where students post self-criticism essays and is filled with slogans like “Learn from our Comrades and Create a New and Glorious Olympics."

Other schools aim to produce more well-rounded athletes with academic as well as sports skills. The Qingdao Sport School in Shandong has a reputation for being particularly enlightened and modern. It has nice dorm rooms, coaches that understand the benefits of rest and a faculty that helps students get into university.

Zhabei-District Children's Sports School in Shanghai produced four athletes that competed in Beijing in 2008, in table tennis, swimming and volleyball. It has 700 K-12 students and , state-of-the art sports facilities and coaches who were once elite athletes themselves. Zhabei is relatively strong in academics. It only requires 90 minutes of sports training a day

Olympic Recruiting Methods in China

Peter Hesseler wrote in the New Yorker: “The method of early recruitment is a product of China's inability to provide every public school with coaches and sports facilities. The system has proved effective in low-participation, routine-based sports like gymnastics and diving."

Olympic historian David Wallechinsky told the Washington Post, “They can mobilize their population of 1.3 billion people by reaching throughout the country and doing the German thing of looking for children of certain body types and going to their parents and getting them to send them to national training centers."

In a typical city, every government district is asked to test and assess children from ages 8 to 13, and select candidates for sports schools. Children that show promise move on to bigger government training academies when they are teenagers.

Doctors measure height, arm span, bone density, flexibility and other things to predict what a child will be like in the future. X-rays and bone tests are used to determine bone density and structure and predict future growth.

Children demonstrating exceptional flexibility and balance are sent to gymnastics and diving camps. Tall children are sent to volleyball and basketball camps. Those with quick reflex are guided into ping pong. Kids with long arms are pushed into swimming or javelin throwing. Those with shorts arms make ideal weightlifters. Potential archers are picked on the basis of a test of steady nerves in which they are asked to spread their palm and stack as many .22 caliber bullets as they can on top of one another. Ideal candidates can stack eight or more bullets. Only those that can that can stack six or more are even looked at. Strong shoulders, superior vision and a cool demeanor are viewed as desirable attributes for archery.

Chinese Athletes Who Were Recruited

China-born, Los Angeles Times journalist Ni Ching Ching wrote: “When I was in the first grade, scouts from the Communist sports machinery came to our school to hunt for future champions. The event was diving. Never mind that I couldn't swim and had no desire to be an athlete, I was told I had the right proportions and good feet. Chosen from a field of thousands to train at a state sports school, I was supposed to be thrilled to serve my country."

Liu Huana, a player from the countryside who earned a place on China's national women's soccer team, told the Washington Post, “I had never heard of soccer until I was 13, when I moved to the county for my fifth-grade studies. One day people from the local athletic school came to our school to select new members. The teacher recommended me because I was the fastest runner in the class. I wore a skirt and sandal shoes that day, and I just took off my shoes and ran."

Yao was sent to a full-time sports academy when he was 12. At that age he was already 6 foot, five inches. By measuring his knuckles sports officials predicted he would grow to 7 foot five inches and special attention was given to groom him to be a future star. Yao later said he didn't even like playing the game until he 18 or 19. “My parents would probably prefer for me to go to college and play basketball only as a hobby." To make sure he didn't skip practice his coach went to his house and accompanied him to practice everyday.

Going to a Sports School in China

Many of the students in sports schools are recommended by coaches or are found by full-time scouts who travel the country looking for talent. Some are enrolled by their parents at cost of $100 a year. Some parents are motivated by ambition. Some just want a decent education for their children.

In the old days, parents were hard-strapped just to give their kids enough food to eat and rarely turned down an invitation for their kids to attend a sports school. But today there are many opportunities outside of sports and parents say they don't want to limit their kids to just one thing and are not as gung ho about sending them to sports schools as they once were.

One 12-year-old who showed promise as a sprinter but turned down an opportunity to go to an elite sports school told the Washington Post: “My dad thinks as a primary school student my studies are still most important...I don't want to either. I still prefer book studies. I feel athletic training is just for health."

Parents of promising athletes who are poor are often given a home in their hometowns by the local sports bureau. Many Parents with kids at sports schools say they talk to their children rarely on the phone and when they do, their kids say little more than yes, no and okay, When asked about her family at the 2008 Games in Beijing, one diver said, “They didn't come to watch the game. I don't care about this."

Chinese Athletes and Sports Schools

Students sleep on bunk beds in dormitory rooms. Between training sessions and classroom work they nap and rest in their rooms. Some students spend very little time on academics. One 15-year-old runner at Weifang City Sports school told Time she rarely cracked a book or even attended classes. When asked what she does, she said, “I run, and I sleep. That's my day."

Chen Yun, a 14-year-old daughter of a vegetable vendor in Shandong Province described in Time magazine, had never even heard of weightlifting when she was selected to train at Weifang City Sports School as a weightlifter based on measurements of her shoulder width, thigh length and waist size. When asked by Time what her favorite sport was, she said “weightlifting." Her hobby? “Weightlifting." When she started describing how she used to like to run in the fields around her village, the school's propaganda director interrupted, and Chen said, “I prefer weightlifting now. I want t become a star athlete and make China proud."
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