Video report by ITV News China Correspondent Debi Edward.
Six positive tests for banned substances in as many months has put China back under the spotlight of the World Anti-Doping agencies.
All of the positive tests came from swimmers and so far only one has been banned by the country’s Olympic committee. Sun Yang served his three-month ban in secret and was then given a free pass into the squad for the Games in Rio this summer.
This cluster of positive tests prompted a former Olympic Doctor, Dr Xue Yinxian to speak to ITV News, sharing her concerns that a state-sponsored doping programme she saw introduced in the 1970s is still operating today.
It never stopped. Now they control the dose very precisely in order not to be detected, it’s far more sophisticated. It’s like a conspiracy between the policeman and the thief. The guy who introduced doping is now in charge of the anti-doping committee, how can he do this job? You cannot stop it, unless the order comes from the top, from President Xi Jingping. We need a real order from Xi.
Dr Xue was expelled from the Chinese Olympic Team after the Seoul Games in 1988.
She had refused to dope her athletes and spoken out against the practice. Since then she and her family have faced persecution from the authorities.
The 69-year-old lives under house arrest, unable to leave the country with her movements and communications monitored by the police. Last year she tried to go and visit friends in Hong Kong but was stopped at the border. She is considered to be the holder of state secrets.
They took away my money, they took away my housing allowance and they not only persecuted me, they persecuted my whole family. My youngest son, he was a young medical intern with the sports team but when he was targeted, they took away his internship. They didn’t want another anti-doping doctor coming into the team, so they made my youngest son jobless. And they also persecuted my eldest son, he also lost his job. Because of fighting for my younger son’s job, my husband became sick. Both of us had been petitioning to the top officials. They made my husband suffer so much, he became very ill.
She risked speaking to us because she says she fears for the young athletes she believes are being given drugs by coaches desperate for Gold medals. She described the experience of one athlete she was close to:
I have a relative who was in the local sports team as a young athlete and these ‘nutrition’ tablets were introduced which she was told would give her strength. So she took them together with her team mates, they were being doped, and they had very good results. Winning championships. She was almost promoted to the national team but because she had taken so many of these tablets, strange things started to happen to her body, she developed an Adam’s apple and her voice started to lower.
She says those involved in doping have become increasingly sophisticated:
“They have a more clever way now than in my times. They will use it, but in a more hidden way," she said.
One way is that they dope you one month before you attend the Games, then by the time it comes to the Games the result should be negative. So that means doping the athlete earlier. Another way is to give you an injection which is very hard to detect on the test. The third way is that they put it in traditional Chines medicine which is very difficult to be detected.
We asked the Chinese Anti-Doping Agency (Chinada) to respond to Dr Xue’s claims, this was the statement they gave us:
The China government has long been firmly opposed to the use of stimulants in sports and has applied a zero-tolerance attitude towards the issue. Like many other countries in the world, there are still Chinese athletes and their associates taking reckless decisions in a drive to make profits, the problem of athletes using stimulant still exists. These athletes will pay the price for going against the sportive spirit and neglecting laws and regulations.
With just four months to go until the Olympic Games in Rio, China finds itself once again facing some uncomfortable questions.