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Wednesday, January 14, 1998 Published at 17:24 GMT


Drug scandal team should go, says coach
image: [ Wang Luna has been thrown out of the championship after failing a drugs test ]
Wang Luna has been thrown out of the championship after failing a drugs test

Australia's head swimming coach has called for the whole Chinese team to be thrown out of the world championships and their medals handed back after a new drug scandal.

Don Talbot made the remarks following an announcement by the sport's ruling body Fina, that four more Chinese swimmers had tested positive to a banned substance.

Three women - Wang Luna, Cai Huijue, Zhang Yi - and the male swimmer, Wang Wei, tested positive for the banned diuretic, Triamterene, an agent sometimes used to mask the use of steroids.

Fina say the four athletes have been suspended and will take no further part in the world championships, which finish on Sunday.

[ image: Yuan Yuan has been banned for four years]
Yuan Yuan has been banned for four years
The announcement coincided with news that breaststroker Yuan Yuan and her coach, Zhou Zhewen, have been banned from competitive swimming for smuggling human growth hormones into Australia en route to the Perth competition.

Yuan is suspended for four years from January 8 this year and Zhewen starts a 15-year ban from the same date.

Don Talbot said the latest positive tests showed Chinese denials of systematic doping were "lies".

Fina says it has suspended the four, but because the tests indicated a masking agent rather than steroids it did not invoke the rule allowing it to ban an entire nation. That could happen if four of its swimmers test positive for steroid use within a 12 month period.

Talbot said he was furious that the whole team had not been banned, saying: "Whether it applies to steroids only or masking agents, they're only words to me - I'm not a chemist," he said.

"The rule is there and it should be used. I personally feel that the Chinese should not be able to compete further in this meet. The Chinese people, by and for their own rule, they're finished.

"The rule is there and Fina should apply it, not make exceptions. If the rule is not workable then rescind it."

The BBC's Gordon Farquhar reports from Perth (1'06")
Wang Luna, 17, was the world's second fastest 200-metre freestyler last year. Wei Wang, 16, and Zhang Yi, 17, were third and fourth in the world in 100-metre breaststroke; and Cai Huijue, 17, was fifth fastest in the 100-metre butterfly.

Nine-time Olympic gold medallist, Mark Spitz, another strong critic of Chinese swimming, said: "I think it's pretty predictable. Fina made the rule, they must enforce it. It's up to them now to show what is below their belt."

David Gerrard, a leading sports medicine doctor and a member of Fina's Medical Commitee overseeing testing at these championships, said of the latest furore: "Diuretics are taken to release fluid - they are not a performance-enhancing drug - but have been included on the banned list for health reasons and for their implications in masking steroid use.

"They enable the body to pass more urine more quickly and in so doing it's thought you can accelerate the body's ability to rid itself of a drug."

Gerrard said there was no sound medical or clinical reason for a healthy athlete to be taking diuretics.

US team spokesperson, Charlie Tischler, said the positive tests, along with China's 23 previous failures in the 1990s, pointed to systematic abuse.

"There's a lot of evidence that points to a widespread drug problem," Tischler said.

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