IAAF investigates letter suggesting Chinese state-sanctioned doping

Wang Junxia
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BEIJING (AP) — The IAAF is investigating the authenticity of a two-decade-old letter published in Chinese media that suggests state-sanctioned doping in the 1990s and casts doubt on the longstanding world records set by Wang Junxia in the women’s 3000m and 10,000m.

Wang’s records could be annulled if the former Olympic and world champion has admitted to doping before setting the marks in 1993, the International Association of Athletics Federations said Friday.

Chinese website Tencent reports that Wang wrote a letter, signed by nine other members of coach Ma Junren‘s training program, in 1995 to journalist Zhao Yu allegedly revealing that athletes were forced to take banned substances and that Ma injected athletes.

“It’s all true that Coach Ma had beaten, verbally abused and mistreated us for years,” said the letter, dated March 28, 1995. “It’s also true that he had coaxed or forced us into using large quantities of banned drugs.

“His crimes must be revealed because we don’t want to see the same thing to happen to the next generation. Such inhumane tortures have brought us to the brink of a complete collapse.”

The IAAF issued a statement Friday saying it became aware of the allegations after being contacted by Chinese media. The track and field organization has asked the Chinese Athletics Association to assist with an investigation to verify if the letter — which is written in Chinese and which Zhao provided to Tencent this week — is genuine.

“If an athlete has admitted that, at some time prior to achieving a world record, he had used or taken advantage of a substance or technique prohibited at that time, then, subject to the advice of the medical and anti-doping commission, such record will not continue to be regarded as a world record by the IAAF,” the statement said.

A woman who answered the call at the Chinese Athletics Association said she had no knowledge of the case.

The scandal resurfaced this month in China, when its social media began heated discussions on doping following a recently published chapter about Ma’s track team, which was known collectively as “Ma’s Army.”

The chapter had been banned for years but was printed in 2014 when publishing authorities believed the Chinese public would be able to accept the scandal, Zhao told the Chinese media.

Ma and his team were considered national heroes for winning medals and setting records at world events, which was then considered a paramount national pride not to be questioned.

In the chapter, Zhao wrote that the distance runners under Ma were deeply troubled by the use of the performance-enhancing drugs but were too afraid to speak up because national honor was at stake. Zhao wrote that the practice began before 1990 and that Ma used the drugs extensively on the athletes after 1991.

Wang clocked 29 minutes, 31.78 seconds at China’s National Games in September 1993, shattering the 10,000m mark by 42 seconds. No runner has come within 22 seconds of her time since.

Wang’s record in the 3000m is 8:06.11, also set at the 1993 National Games. Wang won gold in the 10,000m at the 1993 World Championships and in the 5000m at the 1996 Athens Olympics.

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South Korea’s first gold medalist of 2018 PyeongChang Olympics to compete for China

Lim Hyo-Jun
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Lim Hyo-Jun, a short track speed skater who won South Korea’s first gold medal of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, has been cleared to skate for China and was reportedly named to the national team Monday.

Lim, who won the 1500m on the first day of medal competition at the PyeongChang Games, began the process of switching to China after a June 2019 incident where he pulled down a teammate’s trousers, leaving him standing, exposed, in front of female teammates.

Lim, the 2019 World overall champion, was banned from the team for a year and later found guilty of sexual harassment before the verdict was overturned on appeal.

It was reported in March 2021 that Lim was in the process of trying to gain Chinese nationality to compete at the Beijing Winter Olympics, but Lim was not cleared to switch by the International Skating Union until this July. His Chinese name is Lin Xiaojun.

Another star South Korean skater, triple 2006 Olympic gold medalist Ahn Hyun-Soo, switched to Russia after not making the 2010 Olympic team. He then won three golds for the host nation as Viktor Ahn at the 2014 Sochi Games.

China’s national team for the upcoming season reportedly does not include veterans Wu Dajing, the nation’s lone gold medalist across all sports at the 2018 Olympics, and Fan Kexin, a three-time Olympic medalist.

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Brigid Kosgei, world record holder, to miss London Marathon

Brigid Kosgei
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World record holder Brigid Kosgei withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon due to a right hamstring injury that has bothered her for the last month.

“My training has been up and down and not the way I would like to prepare to be in top condition,” was posted on Kosgei’s social media. “We’ve decided it’s best I withdraw from this year’s race and get further treatment on my injuries in order to enter 2023 stronger than ever.”

Kosgei, a 28-year-old Kenyan mother of twins, shattered the world record by 81 seconds at the 2019 Chicago Marathon. She clocked 2:14:04 to smash Brit Paula Radcliffe‘s record from 2003.

Since, Kosgei won the 2020 London Marathon, took silver at the Tokyo Olympics, placed fourth at the 2021 London Marathon and won this past March’s Tokyo Marathon in what was then the third-fastest time in history (2:16:02).

Ethiopian Tigist Assefa moved into the top three by winning the Berlin Marathon last Sunday in 2:15:37.

The London Marathon women’s field includes Kenyan Joyciline Jepkosgei, a winner in New York City (2019) and London (2021), and Yalemzerf Yehualaw, who was the Ethiopian record holder until Assefa won in Berlin.

The men’s field is headlined by Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest male marathoner in history, and Brit Mo Farah, a four-time Olympic champion on the track.

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