Athletics: China's 11 positive drug tests: Wang not among offenders

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ELEVEN Chinese competitors failed drug tests during last month's National Games in Peking, but the two women runners who shattered world records were not among them, the official Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday.

The report did not name the 11 or specify their sports, but it said they did not include Wang Junxia and Qu Yunxia, who slashed world records for the 10,000, 3,000 and 1500 metres.

Their performances raised widespread suspicions that the women were taking performance-enhancing drugs.

The agency claimed that a total of 534 tests were taken during the Games, which involved 13 Olympic sports, including swimming, where two events were won in times that were the second-fastest in history. That level of testing compares with the Olympics themselves - at last year's Barcelona Games a total of 1,848 tests were made, yielding five positive findings.

Several International Olympic Committee members were present at the Games, which formed a major part of China's ultimately unsuccessful campaign to persuade the IOC to grant them the 2000 Olympics.

Wei Jizhong, the secretary- general of the Chinese Olympic Committee, said the organisation strongly denounces the use of any banned drugs by Chinese athletes, calling it a violation of the Olympic spirit.

The agency said that the 11 would be punished according to the rules of international and Chinese sports bodies, but did not give details. It also did not say what drugs they took. The International Amateur Athletic Federation requested details from the Chinese Athletic Federation, asking it to specify if any track and field competitors were involved.

Shao Shiwei, an information officer at China's sport ministry, said: 'None of them were top athletes. All of the athletes who tested positive were not very talented.

'The announcement shows that China is not trying to avoid the problem, but moving to deal with it,' he said.

Sally Gunnell yesterday was named the world's top woman athlete of the year in a poll of the readers of Athletics International, a newsletter with suscribers in 45 countries. Gunnell was given more votes than Wang, despite the fact that the Chinese athlete had produced three world records in a week.

Asked to name their first, second and third best women athletes of the year, readers generally either put Wang at the top or ignored her completely. Gunnell earned more second and third place votes.

'Many readers stated categorically that they would not vote for the Chinese runner,' the Athletics International co- editor, Mel Watman, said.

Gunnell, who set a world record in the 400m hurdles at the World Championships, was also named European athlete of the year by the European Athletic Association. Linford Christie was named top European man but came fourth in the Athletics International poll won by Algeria's Noureddine Morceli.