After Int’l Accusations of Swimmer Ye Shiwen, Guardian Readers Request Apology to Her

August 2, 2012Jazza John12 Comments, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Readers of the Guardian Newspaper in the UK have expressed their desire on an online poll to see an apology from John Leonard, the American swimming coach, following his allegations that the performance of the Chinese swimmer, Ye Shiwen, were ‘unbelievable’ and ‘disturbing’.

An overwhelming 98% of netizens who visited the site stated that they thought Leonard should issue an apology.

Leonard’s comments came after the 16 year old girl smashed her own personal best by five seconds to break a world record, win gold and swim her final 50m in the 400m Medley faster than either Phelps or Lochte.

In response to the suggestions of blood doping from the American coach the young swimmer was quoted on Xinhua as saying,

“I think that some people are biased, in other countries people win a lot of medals and nobody says anything against them, so why are they saying it about me. I think it is unfair for me, but I was not affected by that,”

Chinese swimming team manager, Xu Qi was also quoted by Xinhua as saying,

“We admit Phelps and many swimmers have talents, why can’t China have a talent like Ye, and Sun Yang, and maybe more to come?”

Xinhua writer, Wu Liming voiced bitterness felt by many Chinese after the allegations against their athletes,

“Chinese swimmers Sun Yang and Ye Shiwen have become shining stars in events that Western athletes have dominated for decades. Some of the Western media has not yet adapted to the new reality, so they are exerting every effort to blacken the performances of Chinese athletes. Apart from sports, the West has always shown a similar dark psychology and mentality toward the rise of China.”

“The core of that mentality is that many in the West are unwilling to recognize the reality that China has become the second biggest economy in the world. At the London Olympics, it is irresponsible for the Western media to pour filth on Chinese athletes who won because of hard training and years of arduous preparation. All in all, arrogance and prejudice is against the Olympic spirit. It is time to tear off arrogance and prejudice, now and forever.”

The Hong Kong businessman, David Tang, wrote in the London Evening Standard of past Olympic milestones and the lack of speculation over previous champions’ achievements.

“… And who is to say that individuals should not suddenly excel and smash physical records… When Roger Bannister became the first man to run a mile in under four minutes there was universal adulation. Perhaps if John Leonard had been around in those days, he might have raised jealous concerns and questioned if the great doctor might not have injected himself with steroids.”

He also drew links between the rise of China in general and their Olympic performance,
“… Remember the rise and fall of whole nations. In anchient times we have Egyptians and Greeks… each of which inevitably fell to others. Maybe, in the 21st Century, it is the turn of China against the supreme power of America. And what is happening in sport at the Olympics id the partial indication of that.”

And just when you think all the brouhaha surrounding Ye’s phenomenal performance in the pool has been put to rest by repeated urine tests on her and IOC’s statement in defense of her, Nature, one of the most revered peer-reviewed journals in the academia, published an article that seems to work up more doubt about Ye Shiwen and her negative test results in an authoritative tone.

“…Was Ye’s performance anomalous? Yes. Her time in the 400 IM was more than 7 seconds faster than her time in the same event at a major meet in July. But what really raised eyebrows was her showing in the last 50 metres, which she swam faster than US swimmer Ryan Lochte did when he won gold in the men’s 400 IM on Saturday, with the second-fastest time ever for that event.

“…Doesn’t a clean drug test during competition rule out the possibility of doping? No, says Ross Tucker, an exercise physiologist at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Athletes are much more likely to dope while in training, when drug testing tends to be less rigorous. “Everyone will pass at the Olympic games. Hardly anyone fails in competition testing,” Tucker says. Out-of-competition tests are more likely to catch dopers, he says, but it is not feasible to test every elite athlete regularly year-round.” 

Chinese netizens, especially students who are studying abroad and read the scientific journal regularly for research purposes, are infuriated by the article, and flooded the comment section with their angry replies.

Songhu Wangsaid:

When does “nature” become a gossip magazine? Dear Editors, please do your jobs.

Jason Wen said:

Shame on you, nature. I have being thinking you are one of the best scientific journal in the world.
But no more. You’re just ruining your own reputation.
How could you allow to publish such a thing full of manipulated data and prejudice?
All that wrong with Ye is she is a Chinese with yellow skin?
Do you really think it’s acceptable to compare the score from Ye Shiwen and Lochet in totally different conditions? Have you ever learned how to set a control in an experiment?
I don’t think I can do much with you, but I definitely would not cite any nature any more.

damao zhang said:

Shame on nature for publishing such a trash article – no convincing evidence but just prejudices!

Xiaodong Sun said:

The editor was either misinterpreting the data or purposely misleading the audience. Many women swimmers have beaten Lochte in terms of his last 50 meters performance. Ye’s 400IM record is 23 sec slower than Lochte’s “second-fastest time ever for that event”
“We wanted to use the controversy as a way to highlight what science can and can’t tell us with respect to athletes’ performance.” quoted Brian Owens. However, ridiculously it is the author of this article that lacks basic scientific training in critical thinking and data analysis. Or even worse, Nature loses its objective stance as a scientific journal and is stirring the water.
If the Nature’s goal is to draw more attention by publishing nonsense articles, you should change your name to SuperNature, which sounds stronger, more appealing to broader audience and more convenient to publish articles like this one.

Ang Zhu said:

Lochte, you really have no idea how much damage you caused to Ye by not putting 100% energy to your final 50m. Four of your competitors swam faster than Ye in the final 50m while you got the gold medal and the author selectively neglect this fact to prove Ye has been doping. I remember in 2008 when Bolt broke the 100m WR, he deliberately slowed down in the final 5m and started celerbarating. Believe me or not, I bet the other 7 runners are faster than Bolt at that particular point so they might all be taking drugs.

Another thing to remind you Lochte, do not do this anymore because Olympic committee might kick you out of the game if you don’t put 100% heart to your race to win. They already did that to 8 badminton girls so god knows when they will do this to you while this topic gets hotter and hotter. So be careful.

Lai Jiang said:

It is a shame to see Nature, which nearly all scientists, including myself, regard as the one of the most prestigious and influential physical science magazines to publish a thinly-veiled biased article like this. Granted, this is not a peer-reviewed scientific article and did not go through the scrutiny of picking referees. But to serve as a channel for the general populous to be in touch with and appreciate sciences, the authors and editors should at least present the readers with facts within proper context, which they failed to do blatantly.

First, to compare a player’s performance increase, the author used Ye’s 400m IM time and her performance at the World championship 2011, which are 4:28.43 and 4:35.15 respectively, and reached the conclusion that she has got an “anomalous” increase by ~7 sec (6.72 sec). In fact she’s previous personal best was 4:33.79 at Asian Games 20101. This leads to a 5.38 sec increase. In a sport event that 0.1 sec can be the difference between the gold and silver medal, I see no reason that 5.38 sec can be treated as 7 sec.

Second, as previously pointed out, Ye is only 16 years old and her body is still developing. Bettering oneself by 5 sec over two years may seem impossible for an adult swimmer, but certainly happens among youngsters. Ian Thorpe’s interview revealed that his 400m freestyle time increased 5 sec between the age of 15 and 162. For regular people including the author it may be hard to imagine what an elite swimmer can achieve as he or she matures, combined with scientific and persistent training. But jumping to a conclusion that it is “anomalous” based on “Oh that’s so tough I can not imagine it is real” is hardly sound.

Third, to compare Ryan Lochte’s last 50m to Ye’s is a textbook example of what we call to cherry pick your data. Yes, Lochte is slower than Ye in the last 50m, but (as pointed out by Zhenxi) Lochte has a huge lead in the first 300m so that he chose to not push himself too hard to conserve energy for latter events (whether this conforms to the Olympic spirit and the “use one’s best efforts to win a match” requirement that the BWF has recently invoked to disqualify four badminton pairs is another topic worth discussing, probably not in Nature, though). On the contrary, Ye is trailing behind after the first 300m and relies on freestyle, which she has an edge, to win the game. Failing to mention this strategic difference, as well as the fact that Lochte is 23.25 sec faster (4:05.18) over all than Ye creates the illusion that a woman swam faster than the best man in the same sport, which sounds impossible. Put aside the gender argument, I believe this is still a leading question that implies the reader that something fishy is going on.

Fourth, another example of cherry picking. In the same event there are four male swimmers that swam faster than both Lochter (29.10 sec)3 and Ye (28.93 sec)4: Hagino (28.52 sec), Phelps (28.44 sec), Horihata (27.87 sec) and Fraser-Holmes (28.35 sec). As it turns out if we are just talking about the last 50m in a 400m IM, Lochter would not have been the example to use if I were the author. What kind of scientific rigorousness that author is trying to demonstrate here? Is it logical that if Lochter is the champion, we should assume he leads in every split? That would be a terrible way to teach the public how science works.

Fifth, which is the one I oppose the most. The author quotes Tucks and implies that a drug test can not rule out the possibility of doping. Is this kind of agnosticism what Nature really wants to educate its readers? By that standard I estimate that at least half of the peer-reviewed scientific papers in Nature should be retracted. How can one convince the editors and reviewers that their proposed theory works for every possible case? One cannot. One chooses to apply the theory to typical examples and demonstrate that in (hopefully) all scenarios considered the theory works to a degree, and that should warrant a publication, until a counterexample is found. I could imagine that the author has a skeptical mind which is critical to scientific thinking, but that would be put into better use if he can write a real peer-reviewed paper that discusses the odds of Ye doping on a highly advanced non-detectable drug that the Chinese has come up within the last 4 years (they obviously did not have it in Beijing, otherwise why not to use it and woo the audience at home?), based on data and rational derivation. This paper, however, can be interpreted as saying that all athletes are doping, and the authorities are just not good enough to catch them. That may be true, logically, but definitely will not make the case if there is ever a hearing by FINA to determine if Ye has doped. To ask the question that if it is possible to false negative in a drug test looks like a rigged question to me. Of course it is, other than the drug that the test is not designed to detect, anyone who has taken Quantum 101 will tell you that everything is probabilistic in nature, and there is a probability for the drug in an athlete’s system to tunnel out right at the moment of the test. A slight change as it may be, should we disregard all test results because of it? Let’s be practical and reasonable. And accept WADA is competent at its job. Her urine sample is stored for 8 years following the contest for future testing as technology advances. Innocent until proven guilty, shouldn’t it be?

Sixth, and the last point I would like to make, is that the out-of-competition drug test is already in effect, which the author failed to mention. Per WADA president’s press release5, drug testing for Olympians began at least 6 months prior to the opening of the London Olympic. Furthermore there are 107 athletes who are banned from this Olympic for doping. That maybe the reason that “everyone will pass at the Olympic games. Hardly anyone fails in competition testing? Because those who did dope are already sanctioned? The author is free to suggest that a player could have doped beforehand and fool the test at the game, but this possibility certainly is ruled out for Ye.

Over all, even though the author did not falsify any data, he did (intentionally or not) cherry pick data that is far too suggestive to be fair and unbiased, in my view. If you want to cover a story of a suspected doping from a scientific point of view, be impartial and provide all the facts for the reader to judge. You are entitled to your interpretation of the facts, and the expression thereof in your piece, explicitly or otherwise, but only showing evidences which favor your argument is hardly good science or journalism. Such an article in a journal like Nature is not an appropriate example of how scientific research or report should be done.




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12 comments to “After Int’l Accusations of Swimmer Ye Shiwen, Guardian Readers Request Apology to Her”

  1. Euds | August 3, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    Too awesome for words.

  2. Mad Dog | August 3, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    Well gee, one must admit that a few eyebrows were raised and Nature just noted that it is possible to beat the tests at the Olympics. However, what most of the commentators fail to bring up is the fairly recent problem with doping in Chinese swimmers! The New York Times has a very balanced article that really refutes many of the comments Chinese have posted about the West and arrogance and other silly things and in the article they reminded us of a reason why some may be suspect: “Yet China has brought uncertainty upon itself. Ye has never tested positive for banned substances. But in the 1980s and ’90s, according to news accounts, more than 50 Chinese swimmers did. Seven were caught by a surprise test at the 1994 Asian Games in Hiroshima, Japan. One swimmer, Yuan Yuan, was caught with 13 vials of human growth hormone at the 1998 world championships in Perth, Australia. ” The article is well worth a read as it is definitely not some western media outlet trying to suppress the accomplishments of China. See it here:

  3. east2west | August 3, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    People should be allowed to voice their opinion, even if you think their opinions are not intelligent or fair. A couple of Chinese swimmers in the past have tested positive for drugs, so some people may have that prejudice against Chinese swimmers. Facts speak louder than words. Ye Shiwen is clean, and her drug testing came out clean. So congrats to her!

    Another 16 year old Chinese swimmer Li Zhesi tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug EPO in March. Check out this article on Li Zhesi:

  4. ChasL | August 3, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    I applaud Mr. Callaway’s courage to tell the world that this case is very suspicious. Callaway should have gone further and laid out the evidence to support the media claim that Ye Shiwen was subjected to in-vitro genetic manipulation.

    That would have fully explained why doping test came out clean. And I would not put it past the commies to sell out the human race and obtain alien technology, since 17 years ago the human genome was not even mapped.

    What other explanation could there be?

    • JoshBoston | August 7, 2012 | Permalink Reply

      So, now, what do you want to say about Katie Ledecky? I am sure she is doping according to you….. plus she has suspicious male pattern boldness, LOL! sorry Ledecky, I think you are cute still.

  5. asdf | August 4, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    1) The NYTimes is garbage when it comes to reporting on china, and I’m a liberal new yorker.

    2) So will Nature and western media now publish doping charges against Ladecky?

  6. Jonathan Fairbank | August 5, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    Chinese swimming sensation, Ye Shiwen (葉詩文), is so strong that she even beat putative American strongman Ryan Lockte. That a Chinese person, let alone a girl of 16, can defeat a putative white “Olympian” has gotten racists in a tissy. Both the American and British media have accused Ye of doping WITHOUT presenting an ounce of evidence.

    Ah, as the Chinese say, hongyanbing (红眼病, “the red-eye disease,”) — in other words, jealousy — is so pathetic. When girly white men can’t defeat a sensational Chinese beauty, they resort to character assassination. Pa-the-tic!

    Let us remind these racists that this is not your grandpas’ China or Chinese! We have stood up! Qi lai!

  7. Blacksoth | August 7, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    Let’s be clear here. It’s not “the west” bashing all chinese competitors, it’s largely americans saying this nonsense. The americans have a history of poor sportsmanship at the games in both winning and losing and this is just one of many incidents in the 2012 games alone.

    I’ll raise your american coach knocking a chinese competitor and raise you a (US women’s goalie) Hope Solo bashing her own teammates.

    The ugly americans are back.

    Innocent until proven guilty. I hope to see more from Yi Shiwen in the future.

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