Run on Ma's power potion

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The Independent Online
TWO Japanese companies are doing battle over the right to sell the elixir of fungus, turtle blood and ginseng that is supposedly helping the Chinese women athletes of wonder-coach Ma Junren to win gold medals.

And Mr Ma, already a controversial figure overseas, is trying to make his fortune by marketing the drink, thus angering his Chinese colleagues.

League Japan Corp and Kawai Corp both claim to be marketing the orignal mixture, which is consumed daily by the Chinese athletes of 'Ma's Army', and claim their competitor's product is bogus. They timed the launch to coincide with the Asian Games that ended in Hiroshima on Sunday. Despite some people's suspicions that it is drugs that are enhancing the athletes' performance, Japanese consumers are rushing to buy the fetid concoctions.

Of the products, League Japan's Rikachu uso-o is the most foul: in a clinical test in the Independent's Tokyo office it tasted like rotted vegetable broth, and had the consistency of mud dissolved in puddle water.

The whisky-miniature-sized bottle sells for pounds 10, or pounds 20 for the double-strength.

Majiajun, by contrast, tasted like liquidised chrysanthemums dissolved in a mixture of nitroglycerine and honey, and would explain the grimaces on the faces of the athletes as they break the finishing tape. Made by Kawai, it sells for pounds 5, and the label says: 'This is the drink Chinese women runners love to drink.'

So which is the genuine article? Both claim to have the key ingredient of dongchongxiacao, a fungus found on caterpillars. League Japan claims its version is being made by the university that invented the drink for Mr Ma.

Kawai says its cocktail was actually developed by Mr Ma, and a spokesman said no one else had the right to market the wonder drink.

Mr Ma is apparently making quite a lot of money from 'licensing' the drinks.

Wei Jizhong, the secretary-general of the Chinese National Olympic Committee, has criticised Mr Ma's capitalist tendencies. But if people are prepared to pay money for the pungent potions, Mr Ma seems to be winning again.