17-year old Li Zhesi of China has been banned for two years for testing positive for EPO, FINA revealed today.
Zhesi tested positive for the substance in March of 2012 in an out-of-competition test conducted by Chinese Swimming and CHINADA: China’s anti-doping agency, and the positive result earned a two year suspension for both her and her coach.
This positive test was first reported by the Associated Press in June, and the ongoing deliberations caused Zhesi to be left off of China’s Olympic team. In 2009, at only 14 years old, Zhesi swam a 52.81 medley relay anchor that rolled China to a World Record in the 400 medley relay: one that stood until this year’s Olympics when the Americans broke it.
Zhesi’s coach was not specifically named, but it is not uncommon for Chinese coaches to be banned along with their athletes. In 2010, at least three Chinese coaches were banned for the actions of their athletes.
EPO is a hormone that increases the body’s production of red blood cells, and is the same substance that Lance Armstrong recently admitted to using en route to his 7 Tour de France titles.
Zhesi was ranked as the #20 100 freestyler in the world in 2011, and the second-best in a struggling Chinese sprint group. The Chinese have a long history of doping, though their aquatics athletes came through relatively cleanly in 2012; Zhesi is the first public positive test out of the country for the year, though undoubtedly it is also the most significant.