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Caitlin Leverenz on Chinese phenom Ye Shiwen: 'I don't think people are wrong to point fingers'

July 30, 2012|By Bill Shaikin
  • Caitlin Leverenz reacts after competing in Heat 4 of the women's 200-meter individual medley on Day 3 of the London Olympics.
Caitlin Leverenz reacts after competing in Heat 4 of the women's 200-meter… (Al Bello / Getty Images )

LONDON — As a top American swimming official described Chinese phenom Ye Shiwen's performance as "impossible," one of the United States swimmers set to oppose her for a medal on Tuesday stopped just short of calling for an investigation.

Ye set a world record in winning the women's 400-meter individual medley on Saturday, swimming her final 25 meters faster than Ryan Lochte swam his final 25 meters in winning the men's 400 IM. On Monday, Ye set an Olympic record in a lopsided victory in the semifinals of the women's 200 IM, prompting waves of suggestions that she might be using performance-enhancing substances.

Caitlin Leverenz, the top U.S. swimmer in the event, said she preferred to focus her energy on swimming rather than doping.

"I can’t do anything about it," Leverenz said Monday. "That’s USADA's and FINA’s job, to do something about it. The Chinese have a history of doping in the past. I don’t think people are wrong to point fingers. But I don’t think that’s my job."

Ye, 16, denied rumors that her performances were drug-aided.

"There's absolutely no problem with the doping," Ye said on Monday, according to a translation provided by the official Olympic News Service. "The Chinese team has always had a firm policy about doping."

However, the Chinese removed another 16-year-old swimmer from their team last month after a positive test for a banned substance. More than 40 Chinese swimmers tested positive for steroids in the 1990s, according to the London Times.

John Leonard, the Florida-based executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Assn., said Ye "looks like Superwoman" and referenced Irish swimmer Michelle Smith, who won the 200 IM at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and sanctioned in 1998 based on evidence she had used performance-enhancing substances.

"Any time someone has looked like superwoman in the history of our sport, they have later been found guilty of doping," Leonard told the Guardian.

He also said: "We want to be very careful about calling it doping. The one thing I will say is that history in our sport will tell you that every time we see something, and I will put quotation marks around this, 'unbelievable,' history shows us that it turns out later on there was doping involved.

"That last 100 [meters in the 400 IM] was reminiscent of some old East German swimmers, for people who have been around a while. It was reminiscent of the 400m individual medley by a young Irish woman in Atlanta."

Ye shrugged off the allegations on Monday night.

"I just carry on and try my best," she said.

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