|HOME | SPORTS | OLYMPICS | NEWS|
September 7, 2000
China axes 27 on suspicionMatt Pottinger in Beijing
China confirmed on Wednesday it had axed 27 athletes from the Olympic team, some of them over "suspicious" results from stringent tests aimed at ending a series of doping embarrassments at international events.
Among those cut were six of the seven members of "Ma's Family Army" of women long-distance runners originally named to a 311-strong squad -- and mercurial coach Ma Junren himself.
An official at the China Olympics Committee confirmed that only 284 athletes would now go to the Sydney Olympics, which start on September 15.
A China Athletics Association official told Reuters that Ma, who said famously his world-conquering athletes trained on turtle's blood and high altitudes, would not go to Sydney.
And a partial list of the new team issued by the official Xinhua news agency showed that all but one of his medal hopes would also stay at home.
The only survivor was Li Ji, one of only 20 women on a track and field team from which 14 athletes were chopped.
The other six members of Ma's army originally slated to go to Sydney were Dong Yanmei, Song Liqing, Yin Lili, Li Jinnan, Lan Lixin, Dai Yanyan. Ma had been aiming for golds in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres events.
Ma abruptly abandoned his high-altitude camp on the Tibetan plateau on Sunday, setting off a frenzy of speculation that China's stringent testing programme for drugs ahead of the Games had entrapped his group.
"Some had problems in their blood tests," said a China Athletics Association official. He stressed that did not mean necessarily they were taking drugs.
Ma always said his athletes took traditional Chinese tonics like caterpillar fungus -- not drugs.
Tu Mingde, secretary general of the Chinese Olympic Committee, said before the new team list was published the cuts meant China would now have a hard time retaining the fourth spot in the medals table achieved at Atlanta and Barcelona.
"It won't be very easy to maintain fourth place this time," he told Reuters Television, adding that there were various reasons for leaving athletes at home.
"The first is that in the course of conducting blood tests we found suspicious results -- suspicious -- in several athletes," Tu said.
"Second, some athletes sustained injuries in training and can't reach their normal levels. Third, a few athletes are not well -- they have fallen ill. We decided they should not go in order to protect their health."
China did not name all the athletes cut from the squad, but John Coates, head of the Australian Olympic Committee, said they comprised seven rowers, four swimmers, 14 track and field athletes and two canoeists.
Xinhua said those axed from the team would not go to Sydney "for the purpose of their health and to protect the principles of fair competition.
Chinese references to "problems" with the blood tests of those cut from the squad suggested there may not have been convincing proof of drugs use, but that Beijing was not prepared to risk its new-found reputation as tough on drugs.
The Sydney Olympics will feature the first widespread tests for the banned drug EPO, sometimes indicated by an unusually high concentration of red blood cells.
Synthetic EPO stimulates the production of oxygen-boosting red blood cells, as does high-altitude training.
Coates applauded the Chinese action, saying the withdrawals should stand as a warning to athletes from other nations to stay at home if they were using EPO.
"There is now a significant risk of anyone who is on EPO being tested and therefore caught so to that extent it will have a good impact on the Games," Coates said.
Australian Sports Minister Jackie Kelly was also full of praise for the Chinese tough approach.
"In my dealings with China they have been absolutely full throttled in the fight against drugs in sport," she said. "They have really come on board, big time."
Mail your comments
TRAVEL | NEWSLINKS
ROMANCE | WEDDING | BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | GIFT SHOP | HOTEL BOOKINGS
AIR/RAIL | WEATHER | FREE MESSENGER | BROADBAND | E-CARDS | EDUCATION
HOMEPAGES | FREE EMAIL | CONTESTS | FEEDBACK