China angrily hit back at allegations that its 16-year-old swimming prodigy Ye Shiwen could only have achieved her recent record-breaking performances with the help of illegal drugs. Officials were left fuming after an American swimming coach suggested Ye's astonishing times were "unbelievable".
The furore has left the United States struggling to defuse a potentially disastrous diplomatic row with Beijing.
Ye, pictured, smashed the world record in Saturday's women's 400m medley – swimming the final 50m of the race faster than the men's champion, American Ryan Lochte. Last night she claimed a second gold in the 200m relay, setting a new Olympic record in the process.
Chinese officials, fellow swimmers and anti-doping experts – and even the teenager's father – flocked to her defence yesterday. Xu Qi, the head of the Chinese swimming team, told the Xinhua news agency: "Ye Shiwen has been seen as a genius since she was young, and her performance vindicates that. If there are suspicions, then please lay them out using facts and data. Don't use your own suspicions to knock down others. This shows lack of respect for athletes and for Chinese swimming."
Her father, Ye Qingsong, said: "The Western media has always been arrogant, and suspicious of Chinese people."
The International Olympic Committee also came out in support of Ye. All medal winners are automatically tested, and IOC spokesman Mark Adams hinted strongly that Ye's test was negative, saying he would only comment if a substance was found.
A German commentator is alleged to have said of the Lithuanian gold medal-winning swimmer Ruta Meilutyte, 15: "She should not be too happy just yet as she has not been cleared by doping control."