Tuesday 16 January 2018

Michael Phelps' coach says unfair to accuse Ye Shiwen of doping

Shiwen Ye is delighted after breaking the 400m-medley world record, but controversy over her performance has arisen. Photo: PA
Shiwen Ye is delighted after breaking the 400m-medley world record, but controversy over her performance has arisen. Photo: PA

Duncan White

MICHAEL Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman, has said that while he understands the "cynicism" about Chinese swimming, he thinks it is "unfair" to raise suspicions about Olympic swimming phenomenon Ye Shiwen without any proof that she has done anything wrong.

American coach John Leonard, the executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association, described the way Ye broke the world record as “disturbing”.

Bowman, who has worked with Phelps since the 14-time gold medallist was 10 years’ old, said that Ye should be given the benefit of the doubt. “I think it is a natural cynicism that results from the history, the long history, of what has happened with China in this sport,” he said. “Having said that I think it is unfair to immediately just jump on someone who has had an extraordinary swim because it is something that happens.”

Leonard said that Ye "looks like superwoman. Any time someone has looked like superwoman in the history of our sport they have later been found guilty of doping". He also pointed to China’s record of doping in swimming, including more than 40 failed tests in the 1990s and another swimmer being banned earlier this year.

“I understand where he is coming from,” Bowman said. “But I think you have to observe what is going on and not make judgements too quickly. I had not seen her swim much before this but she is beautiful technically and she is swimming well.”

China’s anti-doping chief said Ye had been singled out by biased critics. "I think it is not proper to single Chinese swimmers out once they produce good results. Some people are just biased," Jiang Zhixue, who leads anti-doping work at China's General Administration of Sport, told the state news agency Xinhua. "We never questioned Michael Phelps when he bagged eight gold medals in Beijing."

Bowman said that when Phelps showed massive improvement it was down to physical changes. “Michael did make some incredible leaps but they were tied to him growing,” Bowman said. “When he grew five inches he got a lot faster: it made a lot of sense. That maybe was out of the ordinary but after that he made pretty steady progress. The red flag goes up when the improvements are huge.”

Later this evening Phelps will attempt to make history by becoming the most decorated Olympian. He needs two medals to take him to 19 overall, which would take him past the Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina’s 18.

“He could do a couple of special things tonight,” Bowman said. “As a coach you have to exclude those things from the swimmer’s mind. You don’t think about it. It is not even factor. It comes down to this: Michael has to go out and swim a good 200m ‘fly. I you do that right then hopefully the other things will follow. He has in the past been able to block this kind of thing out. I don’t think he is really considering it at all.

Had people written him off to early after he missed the podium in the 400m medley on day one? “Yes, people have probably underestimated him after that first swim. I think he is much better prepared than you saw in that race. I’m still scratching my head about it. He should have been a lot faster but it is what it is.”


Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport