© Copyright – 2016 – Athletics Illustrated
The 2016 IAAF Rome World Race Walking Team Championships took place over the weekend and some of the usual suspects hit the podium hard including China and Italy. China dominated in such a fashion that their performances raise the usual doping innuendo.
It is certainly a red-flag moment. Ironically, the IAAF has recently or is currently investigating allegations that a Chinese middle-distance runner wrote a letter to be published in a Chinese newspaper accusing her coach of forcing her to dope. So was the 2016 IAAF racewalking championships a slap in the face for the governing body, you know – at their own event?
If one Chinese athlete doped, it is, because it would then suggest that the entire team cheated, systematically like Russia, who are currently banned.
Certainly there was at least one former drug cheat on the podium, which is potentially shameful and embarrassing and grounds for more investigations by the World Anti-Doping Agency or the IAAF.
During day one, the Chinese swept both of the 20-kilometre competitions.
The day started off with the women’s 10K race where China’s Ma Zehxia finished first in 45:25 tied with the identical time with teammate Ma Li.
An hour and a half later a Chinese athlete won the men’s 10K in the time of 40:23. The Chinese men finished fourth as a team and the women finished first with just three points to Mexico’s nine.
China then proceeded to take out Canada and Equador in the men’s 20K competition. Wang Zhen won in the time of 1:19:22, while Cai Zelin finished 12 seconds back, for a 1-2 finish and a team gold.
Two of the first three, three of the first six and four of the top eight finishers were Chinese in the women’s 20K competition. They also had a fifth finisher in 17thposition.
The Chinese did not factor in the second day of competition, the men’s 50K race, where drug cheat Alex Schwazer of Italy won in his first race back after a three and-a-half-year drug ban. Schwazer won gold during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Teammates Marco De Luca and Teodorico Caporaso finished fourth and fifth; another red-flag moment.
Australia’s Jared Tallent finished second in 3:42:36, more than three minutes back of Schwazer who crossed the line in 3:39.00. Tallent was awarded the 2012 London Olympic gold medal after Russian Sergey Kirdyapkin was stripped of his medal for doping.
Igor Glavan of Ukraine finished third in 3:44.02, while the 34-year-old De Luca and Caporaso set personal bests of 3:44.47 and 3:48.29.
The fact that Schwazer can come back from an otherwise career-ending doping ban of three-and-a-half years should raise concerns.
During that down period, he may have been able to practice doping and train at the highest possible level. Schwazer’s win may be an example of where lifetime bans should be in place.
This sort of Chinese domination has been seen before in one-off swimming meets as well as in track racing. It is a well-documented story of Ma’s Army, where Ma Junren apparently forced his athletes to dope during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Recently, a twenty-year-old unpublished letter penned by Wang Junxia, one of the most suspected Ma’s Army athletes has come out publicly to say that she wrote to a Chinese journalist exposing her coach as implementing systematic-style drug cheating is now published in Tencent Sports. Junxia was a Chinese middle and long-distance runner who has been suspected as a drug cheat since her highly suspicious performances from 1993.
Let’s hope for the sake of the sport that the Chinese are just better than everyone else and that Schwazer – the former drug cheat – is clean and that the scientifically-proven fact that athletes benefit from doping long after they stop, is somehow magically false.