Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Gene Doping Has Arrived in China!

In a breaking story by German television broadcaster ARD in conjunction with several journalists it has been revealed gene doping is now available for a fee in China. The documentary, aired Monday evening, outlines how despite China's official anti-doping position the problem of performance enhancing drugs is widespread and apparently tolerated at least at the local level in the country. It also detailed the state's continued recognition of national level coaches with histories of doping infractions, the lack of any testing in high risk sports, and the active participation of the country's medical community in the abuses. In one example cited by Swimnews Online, whose Craig Lord participated in the investigation, a young squad of swimmers from Hunan province have been making great advances by training up to 120 kilometers a week. That's twice the distance covered by most Olympians and some are reported to be as young as twelve. The story also notes we're only three weeks from opening the Beijing Olympics but China has not yet announced its national swim team.

4 comments:

JT said...

Scott,

I found this to be the most interesting part of this article:

In an interview with Craig Lord, John Leonard, President of the World Swimming Coaches Association, said: 'We know that any performance that comes from outside the world top ten in the year [before the Games] to the podium is an anomalous performance and literally everyone of those performances over the last four years has later been proven to be doped. So if we get performances that are coming from outside the world top ten in the 2008 Olympic Games, no matter what nation they are from, we have to look long and hard that performances.'

I'm curious, what are the World Top Ten in the 50m freestyle right now? And, if possible, what were they a few years ago, before Dara Torres began her second comeback?

Thanks.

Scott said...

Right now FINA's women's Top 10 are:
1. Lizbeth Trickett, AUS
2. Marleen Veldhuis, NED
3. Cate Campbell, AUS
4. Britta Steffen, GER
5. Dara Torres, USA
6. Kara Lynn Joyce, USA
6. Hinkelein Schrueder, NED
8. Therese Alshammar, SWE
9. Francesca Halsals, GBR
10. Inge Dekker, NED

The rankings are done at set intervals and so don't include the recent U.S. Olympic Trials but even if they did the top 5 wouldn't change. FINA's does track world rankings on a historical basis but unfortunately only started doing so with 2004. Swimnews Online.com has a better historical database but right now only the 1999 short course rankings for 50 free are available. Dara Torres doesn't appear on that list, I think primarily because she had just started her 2000 Sydney Games comeback that summer. That actually was her second return as she had quit swimming for a couple of years after the 1988 Seoul Games. At the 1991 Summer Nationals, a year before the 1992 Barcelona Games, Torres finished second in the 50 and 100 free, second in the 100 fly, and won the 200 free. With a 26.07 she probably wasn't in the world's Top 10 but almost certainly was in the Top 20. The 2000 Olympics were the first Games where she qualified for an individual event (the 50 and 100 free and the 100 fly), and she medalled in every one (three bronze medals). Of course she had shown tremendous improvement in her times from 1992 to be able to do so.

Anonymous said...

The German report ignored many facts:

- Stem cell therapy does not alter anyone’s gene
- The only type of gene therapy associated with doping is Repoxygen, but that’s not being offered
- Stem cell’s therapeutic efficacy remains unproven, there’s even less evidence of performance enhancement

Last April ABC had a “Sports Medicine Miracle” story about stem cell therapy trial by Dr. Rick Matsen. For some reason the same thing in China is called “doping”.

Scott said...

Your point is taken, though I really do think this is only arguing about nomenclature rather than actual substance. In showing the hospital's representations ARD clearly demonstrates there is a willingness to assist athletes cheat the system for profit by rather senior medical personnel in the Chinese medical community. Does it work? Well they're representing it does. Is it really gene therapy? Probably not, but the distinction will be lost on any individual willing to pay the fee. Is it doping? Sure it is. The meaning of doping has now grown to include the application of any external means to improve performance not legally allowed. For example the term has recently been used in questioning the controversial new swim suits - something referred to by many as "technological doping". The term is now synonymous with "cheating". Language changes and grows over time.