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Former swimmers and officials rally around Ye as questions remain By Peter Auf der Heyde, dpa

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London (dpa) - Former swimmers and officials on Tuesday came out in support of Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen, whose world record in the 400 metre medley has been described as suspicious.

The 16-year-old swam 4 minutes 28.43 seconds in Saturday‘s race - nearly seven seconds faster than her performance in the same event at the 2011 world championships in Shanghai, where she finished fifth.

Although he did not accuse her of doping, the executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association, John Leonard, was quoted in the Guardian newspaper as describing Ye‘s performance as unbelievable.

"The one thing I will say is that history in our sport will tell you that every time we see something, and I will put quotation marks around this, ‘unbelievable‘, history shows us that it turns out later on there was doping involved."

Ye swam the final 50m freestyle leg of her race in a time that was faster than that of Ryan Lochte, who earlier in the same session won the men‘s 400m medley.

"That last 100m was reminiscent of some old East German swimmers, for people who have been around a while," said Leonard.

After the unification of Germany it became public that East German swimming officials had for years undertaken a programme of systematic doping of their top athletes.

Ye, however, dismissed such speculation. "There is no problem with doping. The Chinese team has a firm policy so there is no problem with that," she said.

Australian five-time Olympic champion Ian Thorpe was one of those rallying behind the teenager. He told the BBC that he dropped five seconds from age 15 to 16.

"We have to remember young swimmers can take off chunks of time others can‘t. We should wait. This is what I don‘t like in sport, when people are successful people say it is because of drugs," he said.

"How we should talk about it is that we should take away the nationality. If we had an athlete from Team GB who dropped three seconds we would say ‘Wow‘."

The chairman of the British Olympic Association Lord Moynihan said at a press conference that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was "on top of the game".

"She‘s been through WADA‘s programme and she‘s clean. That‘s the end of the story. Ye Shiwen deserves recognition for her talent."

Duncan Goodhew, who won the men‘s 100m breaststroke in 1980, said that athletes should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. "I think it is very destructive and very irresponsible of anybody to accuse people until they are proven guilty."

"There are always incredible improvements in any large sporting event such as the Olympic Games," he said on British television.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesman Mark Adams on Tuesday also responded to Leonard‘s comments. "We need to get real here. We are dealing with the world‘s best athletes. We have a very, very strong drug testing programme and are confident if there are cheats we will catch them.

"You can‘t stop speculation. It is inevitably a sad result of the fact that there are people who dope and cheat. But it is equally sad that we cannot applaud a great performance."

The top five from each race are tested, as well as two further swimmers, who are chosen at random. There were also 1,706 pre-competition doping tests, of which 1,300 were urine tests.

The chairman of the IOC medical commission Arne Ljungqvist on Monday warned against pre-judging a performance. "Should a sudden rise in performance or a surprise win be primarily suspected for being a cheat, sport is a danger," he said.

"It ruins the charm of competitive sport if a surprise win is surrounded by suspicion and question marks.

"We are using many reasons for having target testing. Of course should a sudden rise in performance occur in a particular person, we could regard that possibly as a reason to do it (test them), but I would rather say that it is tragic if that should be the primary reason for doing a testing.

"I personally have no reason (to suspect her) other than to applaud what has happened. I will do so until I have further facts," he said. dpa adh mis



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