Chinese Swimmer Points to Racism in Steroid Accusations

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Another Chinese swimmer has set a world record at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. And another Chinese swimmer has been accused of using anabolic steroids or performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). Sun Yang wonders why amazing performances by Chinese swimmers raise suspicion but those of American swimmers don’t.

Yang won the 1,500 meter freestyle in a world record time of 14 minutes and 31 seconds. Last year, he destroyed the old, decade-long world record at the 2012 World Swimming Championships in Shanghai. He was three seconds faster in London.

As has often been the case in recent years, great performances lead to suspicions about anabolic steroids. In London, it seems that the great performances of China are the ones most likely come under the media microscope of steroid scrutiny.

When 16-year old Chinese swimmer Ye Shewin set the world record in the 400-meter individual medley on her way to a gold medal, American commentators expressed skepticism about the performance being steroid-free.

John Leonard, the executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association, compared her performance to those of swimmers that have been caught using steroids strongly implying that PEDs would ultimately be shown to have fueled her performance.

But when 17-year old American Missy Franklin demolished the world record in the women’s 200-meter backstroke in an “unbelievable” time of 2:04, media commentators simply celebrated the remarkable achievement of the youthful prodigy. No one mentioned steroids or doping.

Franklin was great because she was an American. Shewin and Sun were great because, as Chinese swimmers, they must have used steroids or PEDs.

The fact that Shewin had a split time faster than a top American swimmer was put forward as proof that she doped. However, Franklin was able to swim the backstroke as fast as the gold medalist in the butterfly. (The butterfly is a much faster swimming event that the backstroke). Why didn’t that “unbelievable” comparison raise suspicions among American commentators.

Sun Yang responded to the media inquiries with class both defending himself and Shewin while praising American swimmers.

“How could she (Franklin) swim as fast as a butterfly swimmer did over the same distance?” Sun asked. “I believe her result came from her hard work.”

“What if people didn’t congratulate her and cheer for her but, rather, questioned her, as they did Ye? Would she feel happy?” Sun said. “I think we proved Chinese swimming stands high in the world, and we made it entirely through the same hard work that other athletes did.”

One of the unfortunate side effects of the current steroid hysteria in the media is that hard work is often overlooked as the key ingredient to athletic success. Steroids have never created a great athlete and they never will.


Xiaochen, S. (August 6, 2012). It’s not doping that wins races, Sun says – it’s lots of hard work. Retrieved from