x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Ye swims too fast?

While her feat is certainly shocking, critics of the Olympic record of Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen should hold their judgement

If you thought the Olympics were all about celebrating achievement, consider the case of 16-year-old Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen. When she set the first swimming world record of these Games, racing the freestyle leg of the 400-metre medley faster than US frontrunner Ryan Lochte swam in the men's event, her nation cheered.

But others were sceptical such a feat was even possible, with senior US coach John Leonard among the most vocal in accusing Ye of being a drug cheat. Inevitably, he and others have drawn comparisons between China and the former communist state of East Germany, whose athletes routinely took performance-enhancing drugs in the 1980s.

Yesterday, British Olympic Association chairman Lord Colin Moynihan said Ye had tested negative for drugs. For their part, Chinese officials insist Ye is a prodigy in the mold of superstar Michael Phelps.

It may be that undetectable drugs are being made in labs across the world - still, if Ye cheated, time will surely tell. Even if she did, it is impossible that she sourced, purchased and administered them herself.

For now, her critics should withhold judgement. Ye's achievements should be taken on face value, as the inevitable investigation proceeds. If it eventually transpires that she was doped, it will be her coaches - and China's sports programme - that should shoulder most of the blame.