Ning Zetao Reaping Benefits Of Training With Aussie Coach Brown

Chinese swimmer Ning Zetao made history in Kazan just last week by becoming the first Asian man ever to win the 100m freestyle gold medal at a FINA World Championships. Ning’s time of 47.84 marked another notch along the Chinese swimmer’s recent trend of dipping beneath the 48-second barrier, and the 22-year old did so even among the likes of Australian star Cameron McEvoy and American Nathan Adrian alongside him in the race.

To what can Ning attribute his success?  Among other things, the new sprint sensation credits his relatively new relationship with Australian Coach Matt Brown. Brown, who was the longtime coach of this year’s world championship’s double backstroke gold medalist Emily Seebohm’s up until just a few months prior to Kazan, moved to Surrey Park Swimming Club where he now coaches a small Chinese contingency, including Ning.

Much like the situation involving Sun Yang being coached by Denis Cotterell and Brian King on Australian soil post-drug suspension, Ning also has to tread lightly training in the country due to his own doping conviction in 2011. Australia’s anti-doping guidelines dictate that convicted foreign dopers are prohibited from training at ‘podium centers’ within the nation.  However, since Brown coaches out of Surrey Park Swimming Club, a non-podium training center, Swimming Australia holds no jurisdiction.

The situation is paying dividends for Ning, as he says his self-confidence has been boosted in the new training environment.  “He is a very high-level coach”, Ning says of Brown, to which Brown responds, “I rate him [Ning] highly.  He’s tough as a nail and so respectful.”  Besides his gold medal in Kazan, Ning had previously first broken the 100m freestyle Asian record at last year’s Asian Games with his nation’s first sub-48 time (47.70) as well as was considered the critical leg in China’s gold medal-winning 4×100 freestyle relay at the meet.

Paralleling his rising fame in the pool is Ning’s popularity outside of the pool as well.  According to Chinese media, Ning “has been dubbed ‘little fresh meat’ for his good-looking face.” As a result of his historic swim, his number of followers on social media site, Weibo, shot up to 1.1 million from just 10,000 prior to the world championships.

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Also, drugs.

M Palota

Once again, it does warrant repeating that Ning Zeato tested positive for Clenbuterol, which used extensively through out the Chinese pork industry as a means to “lean out” the meat. And when I say extensively, I mean to point where if you ate in a food court in a mall in Beijing, you’d almost certainly test positive for its presence. It’s a [email protected] problem; people have died over there from eating pork. FYI, it’s also used in beef production, especially in places like Brazil. There’s been a few Brazilian athletes – I think a couple(?) swimmers – that have had tested positive from contaminated meet. It’s hard for us to relate here in North America (Or, for that matter, Australia,… Read more »

Philip Johnson

What you fail to mention is that clenbuterol is also a proven performance-enhancing agent. Along with your “food contamination” theory, you should also mention that fact.

M Palota

It is – absolutely – a PED and it’s banned for a reason. Using it as a PED helps build lean muscle mass. That I fully and completely acknowledge.

Look, I don’t know whether or not he took clen as PED. He might have. What I do know, though, is that given clen’s extensive use in the food chain in places like China, an accidental positive is not all unlikely.It’s for that reason that I’m inclined to give him a pass.

M Palota

FYI, there’s a story – I don’t know if it’s true – that went around back when Sun Yang was incarcerated for his driving incident: While in prison, he lost a bunch of weight because he wouldn’t eat the prison food for fear of an accidental positive.

I find the whole discussion kind of interesting because it fits with I believe to be the narrative that if you test positive for PED’s, you’re either very unsophisticated or it’s an accident. If you’re really on a PED programme and you’re following the correct protocols, you probably won’t test positive. Regrettably, the dopers are a fair ways ahead of the testers, it seems to me.


Maybe they should all adopt a vegan diet. When you are young like 17,18 you eat a lot, how can you afford a proper meal with only certified organic meat?. Even in the US, I watched some videos on Netflix about food safety. It really changed my perspective.

I consider sausage (pep pizza) pretty dangerous due to the many kinds of meats they mix. Last year there was a report on horse meat found in burgers sold in Europe. It just takes one accident to ruin a swimmer’s career.


The biggest name to test positive for that drug across the sport- cyclist Alberto Contador, whose career peak was smack in the middle of the worst of the doping years in his sport (and was hardly clean in his Grand Tour years when 90% of the peleton was dirty and his name was one of the bigger ones in the Operación Puerto investigation). Contador also blamed ‘tainted meat’ for his later doping positive.

IMO, not great company to have in terms of doping positives, and I thought the Aussies had rules now about dopers being allowed to train in their country.

M Palota

For the record, I’d argue that Contador was using Clen as a PED.

Safety – with some notable exceptions – throughout the food chain is far more secure in the developed world versus the developing world. It’s unlikely somebody in Western Europe would be ingesting Clen-tainted meat.


Not that I care, since albuterol is legal and has similar effects to clen and tons of swimmers are supposed asthmatics and benefiting from albuterol legally via TUE, but is there actually any evidence that eating contaminated meat actually leads to positives? I have never been able to find any study on the amount of clen needed to be given to the animal and how soon before slaughter, shipping, and cooking etc. for it to actually trigger a positive test.


I should say I found quotes of 1 study that showed tourists testing positive for low levels of clenbuterol after returning from China, but could not source the actual study myself anywhere. Either way, there are plenty of easier and probably more potent drug abuses to use in swimming, like simple testosterone which is hard to test positive for unless you abuse like crazy, and that’s assuming you cannot get a TUE for it and/or a ton of other drugs.


Albuterol can be legally taken even without TUE. USADA website has a practical guide how to take Albuterol legally by using over-the-counter food supplements.


I agree with you that a doper has no incentives in taking Clenbuterol when a better alternative is available legally. Info regarding Ning’s case is sparse. As a result I think it is not easy to research into it. If he filed the repeal, more info would be available.


There was a European study a few years back talking about that we’d been assuming that swimming was a good sport for children with asthma because of the warm wet air in indoor pools, but that swimming actually seemed to create asthmatics on its own because of the poor air quality found in those same indoor pools that was supposed to be helping those other asthmatics.


For that matter, definitely yes. Clen is considered exogenous substance (the body does not produce) so WADA does not have a limit on it. Even tiny traces of clen result in a positive test and the testing procedure has long been quite mature. Eating polluted meat can have a much higher level of clen in your body than even regular doping with clen would. Here is a report on this issue with some reference to situations in China and Mexico:

Reading it gives me the feeling it would not be smart to dope with clen.


This is how I look at these situations. We generally give swimmers the benefit of the doubt that they are not doping because they are subject to testing at the big events and also the random stuff that wada can do outside of competition. So we assume USA swimmers are clean as are the other nations top swimmers cause no one wants to believe Ledecky would possibly dope well Im sure other foreigner thinks it not possible for a clean female to be that fast even though our only proof(defense) is that we just know that in US we don’t dope 15 year olds to win gold medals and her time progression have been consistent for a teenager even though… Read more »


ning zetao is the man. More power to you.


James Magnussen also trained under coach Brown. In fact, the two swimmers have similar splits. I don’t think Ning ever broke 47.60 yet. So he still has a lot of work ahead of him.

Gina Rhinestone

Matt was Emily Seebohm’s coach for over 10 years coaching from the Nudgee Brothers club in Brisbane . James grew up 300 km South & stated his post school,career under Best in Sysney. I don’t know about this . The last 2 ‘ celeb invitees’ Sun & Park have brought misery & a total disillusionment . Many consider Aust swimming clubs & facilities have been exploited & what is at first a warm welcome leads to disruption & anger . Why should Aust parents do all this fundraising & organising when it is to benefit Chinese swimmers ? Yes Miami – that was the real problem that you were unable to speak of . There are some centres in Qld… Read more »

Gina Rhinestone

‘That club’ = Surrey Park not Miami though their injury history is a separate concern . Swimming Aust – shoulders & back injuries in young swimmers that require surgery are not acceptable .


Thank you for the info. I checked the report where I got the story. Now I believe the report mixed up Brent Best with Matt Brown. He used Brent Best’s bio on Matt Brown. Thank you for the clarification.


Why should Aust parents do all this fundraising and organising for Chinese swimmers? If you choose to fundraise then you should be doing it with the intentions of helping any swimmer that uses the facility, regardless of nationality. Period. Also i love how you pointed out (possibly assisted), like NO Australian athlete has ever tested positive before and that only Chinese athletes test positive. To be honest it just sounds like you’re a bit butt hurt that Chinese swimmers have achieved the results they have achieved. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a swimmer being coached from someone from another country. (I believe Yannick Agnel swims with Bob Bowman from memory). Also, Sun’s situation has been understood he had a… Read more »

About Loretta Race

Loretta Race

After 16 years at a Fortune 1000 financial company, long-time swimmer Retta Race decided to change lanes and pursue her sporting passion. She currently is Coach for the Northern KY Swordfish Masters, a team she started up in December 2013, while also offering private coaching. Retta is also an MBA …

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