BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s top official newspaper has waded into the furore over comments suggesting Olympics swimming sensation Ye Shiwen might have benefited from doping, saying that the unfounded suspicions showed ignorance and “deep-seated prejudice”.
Chinese sports officials, Ye’s father and the 16-year old swimmer herself have all vehemently denied the doping concerns, which some observers raised after her world record performance in the 400 metres medley on Saturday.
Now the People’s Daily, the main mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, has added its weight to the angry rebuttals and suggested that suspicions over Ye’s two gold medals in London reflected broader Western ill-will towards the country’s achievements and rising strength.
“This is not the first time that certain Western media have voice unfounded suspicions about the outstanding performance of Chinese athletes. Deep-seated prejudice has led them into blind ignorance,” a commentary in the paper said on Thursday.
“Naysaying by a handful of people will not ruin China’s image and nor will it hold back China’s advancement,” it added.
“Maligning the reputation of Chinese athletes and upsetting the competitive performance of China’s young sporting stars at the London Olympics is really a miscalculation,” the paper said.
The official Xinhua news agency, citing a statement from the Chinese Swimming Association, said their swimmers underwent more than 2,500 drug tests last year which produced no positive results.
“China’s recent breakthroughs in swimming are the results of scientific training and hard work,” the report cited the statement as saying.
Some of Ye’s supporters have accused her detractors of racism, pointing out that far from appearing out of nowhere, Ye, a world champion over the 200 medley last year, had been an emerging star for years.
“Ye Shiwen has been consistently training in swimming since she was six or seven-years-old,” said the Chinese paper. “Her outstanding performance was not out of the blue.”
Questions over Ye’s display, and whether it was possible without performance-enhancing drugs, surfaced after her stunning 400m individual medley display, when she stormed past American world champion Elizabeth Beisel in the final freestyle segment.
Reporting by Chris Buckley; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by John O'Brien