This time, China's in the spotlight
The latest athletics scandal feels like an episode of Cold Case.
After the World Anti-Doping Agency announced, last November, that it had found evidence of “state-sponsored” doping in Russian athletics, we just might have another major instance of institutionalized cheating in professional running.
According to a news portal of the Chinese holding company Tencent, a damning letter has surfaced, allegedly written by the group of Chinese female runners known as Ma’s Army, who briefly dominated the sport in the early ‘90s. Among the alleged signees is Wang Junxia, the women who has held the world record in the 3,000 and 10,000-meters for over twenty years.
Picking up on the story, the South China Morning Post reports that these women were “forced to take a large dose of illegal drugs” over a period of years. The report alleges that their coach, Ma Junren, directly injected them with the drugs. It was not disclosed which substance the women were injected with.
“We are humans, not animals,” one passage of the letter reads, according to the South China Morning Post.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has yet to verify the authenticity of the letter, which was allegedly sent to a Chinese journalist 19 years ago, but never published. The IAAF has sought the collaboration of the Chinese Athletics Association.
This news is huge, but hardly shocking. The ridiculously fast times of Chinese women distance runners like Junxia and Qu Yunxia in 1993 have been viewed with suspicion for years. Yunxia’s world record in the 1,500-meters was only broken last year by Genzebe Dibaba in Monaco. Meanwhile, no runner has gotten anywhere near Junxia’s 10,000-meter record of 29:31.78.
If the aforementioned letter turns out to be genuine, that record will likely be scrapped. The IAAF competition rules state that:
If an athlete has admitted that, at some time prior to achieving a World Record, he had used or taken advantage of a substance or technique prohibited at that time, then, subject to the advice of the Medical and Anti-Doping Commission, such record will not continue to be regarded as a World Record by the IAAF.
For serious fans of a sport, there is little joy to be had when a star athlete openly admits to cheating. Nevertheless, such testimony, if validated, can allow us to move on and put suspicion to rest.