Opinion: On Ye Shiwen and Doping

When I was sixteen years old, I swam my first long-course 50m breaststroke at prelims of junior nationals. It was also my first junior nationals race. I was entered in the first of many heats with no time; I had qualified for the meet with a time trial in the 100 breast. I tied another 16 year old for second and narrowly missed my senior national cut. He had swam at Pan Pacs the previous summer.

I remember vividly seeing my time, getting out of the pool and walking over to my coach, who was ecstatic. As I approached him, I overheard a passing parent say to her son: “That kid HAS to be on drugs.” My coach looked at my skinny 6’6, 165 lb frame and burst out laughing.

As funny as it seemed at the time, it really stuck with me. I realized I was getting into a sport where the unexpected is rarely expected. There aren’t a lot of major upsets in swimming. In fact, only a few have ever won a gold medal from lane eight of an Olympic final.

As soon as Ye Shiwen touched the wall, I knew that a firestorm was about to begin. Does China have a history of performance enhancing drug use among its Olympic athletes? Yes. Does the USA have a history of performance enhancing drug use among its Olympic athletes? Yes. Does China have the finances and technology to develop cutting edge performance enhancing drugs for its athletes? Yes. Does the USA? Yes. We can speculate to no end about the existence or nonexistence of these drugs, their benefits and who is using them, but it helps nobody. I don’t believe that Ye Shiwen or any other athlete should be pigeonholed because of their national representation.

People want an answer to how Ye Shiwen swam such a fast closing hundred in the 400 IM and how China has suddenly produced such success. How about her training? How about the money poured into sport in China over the last 15 years? How about the billions China has to select from, as opposed to the mere millions other countries have? It is easy to point to drugs as the answer and to force someone onto the defensive against their actions.

Until somebody unearths some evidence of illegal drug use, Ye Shiwen is just another 16 year old with a poor race strategy. And until there is some evidence of wrongdoing, I don’t believe 16 year old Ye Shiwen should have to answer to accusations that her hard work, training and dedication were the result of cheating.

Swimming has always been a sport of purity. The circumstances are as physically close to equal as possible. As such, performance enhancing drug use in swimming has always been a touchy subject. Wrongdoings in the sport have had a severely negative impact on the institutions in which we have placed our tremendous trust. But without trust, our sport cannot exist. Without the respect for our fellow athletes, the officials that govern, the coaches that educate and the fans that support, the sport of swimming cannot function. Without trust and respect, sport is not sport. We should be able to believe that the human beings that work so hard and sacrifice so much to achieve glory at the Olympics can still do amazing things. So until there is reason to believe otherwise, believe your eyes. Believe that the sport of swimming can still amaze, expect the unexpected and let Ye Shiwen enjoy her moment.

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Keiren Perkins won the 1500m in atlanta from lane 8… fyi

Thanks! One of the broadcasters cited this fact earlier today. I guess I was a fool to believe them.


good points, but she is doping and everybody knows it.

Panda paddle

Ye Shiwen swam in the 5th lane, as one of the favorites in the race


Yes, and she’s still doping.


I don’t think it’s fair to say “she’s” doping, as it probably wasn’t an option for her. China wants to win and show the world that the chinese are better than everyone else, and they’re not going to roll the dice on that by allowing their athletes to compete honestly.


The vast vast vast majority of dopers, historically, have been American.
Phelps is probably doping, under your reasoning


Um…no. We’re talking about American swimming. Where China and Germany women have been historically associated with doping scandals. America’s testing program is extensive and highly open to observation.

rob smedley

I do remember Amy Van Dyken was a regular at Balco Labs. She was called before the Grand Jury. She was married to a Denver Broncos punter and was introduced to Balco by their good friend Bill “Steroids” Romanowski.

Luckily she is an American swimmer and they are above all cheating and her gold medals were not taken away like Marion Jones’ were.

Van Dyken was always calling the Chinese out on cheating. Odd since she was a Balco client.

I also believe that Dara Torres times at age 40 plus are non steroid or HGH, or EPO, or clenbuterol free.


Yeah, USA swimmers are definitely not the majority of dopers in swimming, even though track/field and baseball were a joke. China had 30+ swimmers test poz in the 90’s and the USA not even half that.

I had suspicions about AVD myself, but they were never proven. Just as Barry Bonds hasn’t tested pod despite his connections with Balco. Dara Torres comeback seemed unlikely at first until I realized how freaky her body was, like Phelps, and how much faster she could have been when younger were it not for her eating disorder. Plus she has submitted extra samples for future testing; I’d like to see Ye do that too.


All the high mindedness aside, this sounds like the nonsense pro cyclists have been spouting for years. The most logical explanation is that the Chinese are doping. Their history is damning and their closing speed is ridiculous across the board.


Are you an exercise physiciologist, and if so, what do you make of the article where the Australian coach talks about Ye having a superior power to weight ratio, compared with the Aussie women who are too heavy? Thanks.


Great article!

Thanks Underwater. I think any athlete who has been accused of doping and knows they’re clean knows how this feels.


She beat Ryan Lochte’s split time and he won Gold. She’s doping. Period.


Lochte’s finishing time was 4:05.18 and Ye’s finishing time was 4:28.43. There is a 23 seconds time difference! Lochte had a comfortable lead into the freestyle leg, so he probably slowed down a bit… and Ye had to come from behind, so she probably swam her heart out on the last leg.


I agree with your point but Lochte died in his 400IM. He said himself he went out too fast.


@Kobio, you sound like you have tested her urine sample. Otherwise, how could you be so sure..


Lochte beat her by 23 seconds. Splits are irrelevant. By that rational, Adlington has to be doping to.

You’re a moron.


About Davis Wuolle

Davis Wuolle

Davis Wuolle helped found and launch SwimSwam at its inception in 2012. Davis designed and developed SwimSwam.com, utilizing over nine years of web development and design experience. Davis graduated in 2013 from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada where he specialized in Materials Engineering with a focus on Product …

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