The Pipes of Pan And The Trouble With China
Craig Lord
Coach Pan says China is clean and they explains. His arguments are as understandable as the accusations but they don't stand up to scrutiny


Pan Jiazhang, coach to Olympci 200m butterfly champion Liu Zige, the 17-year-old who dropped from a 2:09 in 2007 to a 2:04.18 world record, was just a tad irritated. No, the Chinese were not doped.

His arguments are as understandable as the accusations but they don't stand up to scrutiny. "Look at how many times our swimmers have been tested, I assure you that this is a clean team." Two things: Marion Jones proved that hundreds of tests can't do what one confession can; and a trawl for Liu Zige in the Fina out-of-comp testing stats shows us that she was overlooked. Not a single test from the overseas agents employed by the federation during the season of build up. Not good enough. Not close to be good enough. This year: one test, in January, and nothing since, nothing suring the time that Zige has moved up from 2:09 to 2:07, and then on to a 2:04.18, past Schipper and the rest of the fleet of proven world-class flyers. 

Not good enough. Not nearly good enough.

 "Why do they accuse us every time we are doing well?" asks Pan. Simple. Because every time you've done well in the past, you have done so by cheating - big time. Remember the 1990s and into the 2000's Mr Pan? We do. More than 40 positive tests from Chinese swimmers. Pariah status does not and cannot disappear overnight. The bodysuit has helped mask many a problem at these Games but it will not be so forever. The field is almost level again. We should not see these kind of drops when the world returns to Rome in 2009, 15 years after those who cultivated the Golden Flowers heaped shame upon shame on swimming and their own nation.

 Pan explains the big step up for China from a very low base we saw in Melbourne 2007. "We put our focus only on the Olympics. We've been improving fast and consistently in the last few years and I am very surprised by the achievements we've made." Fast and consistent improvement? Nonsense. Simply untrue. No evidence to back that up whatsoever, neither in medals, nor numbers in finals nor on the world rankings down to 100 deep. Totally untrue.

"Yes, we regarded the 200 'fly as our gold-medal event," added Pan. No-one else in the world of swimming did. rare to come from  outside the top 10 to win a gold medal in a massive world record. Truly it is. "We did not improve that much," said Pan. I recommend new glasses, Mr Pan. 

The most sensible thing he said: "We are competing at home and our swimmers feel very comfortable. Check out the crowd. They definitely help the swimmers alot."

Rome will de different, of course. Very different indeed. Mr Pan should know that the world is watching - with a nod to a shameful past that too few in China seem to think is somewhat insignificant. They should think again.