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Bad press for China at the Olympics

David Yang writes today that Chinese viewers have been surprisingly impressed by China’s less audacious, somewhat quirkier Olympic games (Exhibit A). But while China is currently tied for the U.S. team in the medal count, the media coverage the Chinese team has received has not been so kind. Although she’s never failed a drug test, ...

CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/GettyImages
CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/GettyImages

David Yang writes today that Chinese viewers have been surprisingly impressed by China’s less audacious, somewhat quirkier Olympic games (Exhibit A). But while China is currently tied for the U.S. team in the medal count, the media coverage the Chinese team has received has not been so kind.

Although she’s never failed a drug test, suspicion continues to follow Chinese swimming phenom Ye Shiwen, who comfortably took gold in the 200-meter individual medley after shattering the world record in the 400-meter on Saturday — a race in which she swam the final leg faster than men’s winner Ryan Lochte.

"History in our sport will tell you that every time we see something, and I put quotation marks around this, ‘unbelievable,’ history shows us that it turns out later on there was doping involved," said John Leonard,  head of the American Swimming Coaches Association, who compared Ye to the famously doped up East German swimmers of the 1970s. BALCO founder Victor Conte, who helped American runners Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery cheat in previous Olympics, suggested that difficult-to-detect blood doping could be involved

The Chinese media, not surprisingly, has reacted angrily to the accusations. The Global Times editorializes: 

Negative comments about her and Chinese athletes come from deep bias and reluctance from the Western press to see Chinese people making breakthroughs.

If Ye were an American, the tone would be different in Western media. Michael Phelps won eight gold medals in the 2008 Games. Nobody seems to question the authenticity of his results, most probably because he is American.

It’s an understandable reaction. China may have some recent history of illegal sports behavior,  but so does the United States, including Jones and cyclist Floyd Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France victory after he was caught doping. Nonetheless, China’s meteoric — and government-orchestrated — rise in the sports world makes it a target for scrutiny.

While the Ye situation played out, last night was described as a "evening of shame" for the sport of badminton after several teams, including China’s defending gold medalists Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang, seemed to be intentionally tanking preliminary matches in order to get a more favorable draw in later rounds. The Chinese team, along with pairs from Indonesia and South Korea, was disqualified from competition today.

Hard to blame Western media bias for that one. 

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