Doctor Admits State-Sponsored Steroid Use in China During 1980s and 1990s

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Chen Zhanghao, a former top physician for the Chinese Olympic team, admitted administering performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) to athletes in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper in Australia. He admitted overseeing the use of PEDs, such as anabolic steroids and human growth hormone (hGH), as part of a state-sponsored doping program in China during the 1980s and 1990s. Zhanghao claimed to have experimented with the doping of approximately fifty elite Olympic athletes.

Zhanghao confirmed claims made earlier by his colleague Xue Yinxian. Yinzian was the former doctor for the Chinese gymnastics team. Yinzian claimed that state-sanctioned use of anabolic steroids and hGH was “rampant” during the 1980s. Steroid and hGH use were considered a component of the “scientific training” that contributed to China’s rise as a sporting superpower. Yinzian told the SMH newspaper that Zhanghao was the doctor in charge of doping the Chinese team during this period.

Zhanghao expressed pride in his role as a doping doctor for China’s Olympic team. After all, it helped make China a force to be reckoned with in the international sporting world. Zhanghao did not indicate any remorse or regrets at the use of steroids in sports. After all, according to Zhanghao, all the major countries at the Olympics were using steroids as well.

“The United States, the Soviet Union and France were all using them so we did as well,” said Zhanghao. “So how can you condemn China but not the USA or Soviet Union?”
Zhanghao also provide some insight into the doping program administered to Chinese athletes. He admitted that anabolic steroids were the core PED of the program since other drugs, such as hGH, were not as cost-effective.
He alluded to the presence of doping experts from other countries hired by the Chinese government. These doping experts took advantage of the Chinese by overstating the effectiveness of doping.
Zhanghao ultimately realized that steroids and other PEDs were not the real secret to sporting success.
“After trying them ourselves we made two conclusions: one is that training is the key after all, and even in the U.S., taking drugs do not guarantee performance.”

The Chinese doping doctor also noted that not all athletes responded to performance-enhancing drugs. Chinese officials concluded that only fifty percent of athletes improved their performance with the use of PEDs.

Zhanghao defended his role in the medical supervision of doping in Chinese athletes. He said his participation in China’s systematic doping program was governed by three principles: steroid use was voluntary, no harm was caused by the steroids and the steroids were effective.


AFP. (July 29, 2012). China doctor defends doping in ’80s, ’90s as ‘widespread’. Retrieved from http://www.chinapost.com.tw/china/national-news/2012/07/29/349154/China-doctor.htm