The Associated Press is reporting that Chinese swimmer Li Zhesi tested positive for EPO in March.
This announcement, made by official Chinese state media, will bring back old feelings about the Chinese swimmers in the late 80’s and early 90’s, where it is believed by most (and confirmed in some cases) that institutional doping was rampant in the Chinese federation as they dominated major swimming.
This is a major announcement for the Chinese team. The 16-year old Zhesi was the 2010 Asian Games Champion in the 50 free (at only 14 years old) and also anchored the Chinese medley relay that won the 2009 World Championships that is the current World Record holder. In 2011, she anchored the prelims round of the silver-medal relay in the same event.
EPO is a substance that occurs naturally in the body, and controls red blood cell production. But an excess of EPO, used artificially, can severely ramp up red blood cell production, which in turn can take more oxygen to the muscles during athletic output – which can drastically improve performance.
No suspension has yet been announced, as the presumption is that Zhesi is still working through the appeals process.