Ma's magic mixture sets another Chinese record

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The Independent Online
MA JUNREN, the Chinese coach who has built a team of record-breaking women runners, has sold the secret of the concoction he invented to augment his harsh training regime to a Chinese nutritional company, writes Mark Burton.

In a ceremony in Guangzhou on Wednesday, Ma traded the recipe, which he calls 'The Secret to Life's Inner Strength', to the Zhongshan-based company Guangdong Today Holdings for 11m yuan ( pounds 900,000). That is reported to be a record price in China for the transfer of intellectual property rights.

Ma said he had developed his potion, which is known to include the blood of the soft-shelled turtle and caterpillar fungus, over 24 years. It 'aids rapid recovery from fatigue' as well as 'strengthening the body', he said. Such claims provide the perfect counter to allegations that it was banned drugs that gave two of his runners, Wang Junxia and Qu Yunxia, the ability to demolish the world records for 1500, 3,000 and 10,000 metres at the world championships in Stuttgart and China's national games last year.

Ma was matter-of-fact in explaining their feats and revealing the severity of his training programme. 'All the runners I choose are from rural areas. They are used to enduring difficulties. Otherwise how could they bear to run a marathon a day?'

The sale of the recipe comes at a time when his future in sport is in doubt. Last week he tendered his resignation to authorities in the north-eastern province of Liaoning, where his training camp is based, in protest at interference in his methods and the lack of financial support for his team of runners, known as 'Ma's Army'.

He will use the money from his drink to set up an athletics training centre.