Chinese hand out long bans

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The Independent Online
DRUGS IN SPORT China yesterday announced competition bans ranging from six months to four years on 11 of their athletes who tested positive at the Asian Games in Hiroshima in October.

Seven of the swimmers, including the world champions, Yang Aihua and Lu Bin, were banned from all competition for two years, while the 400 metres hurdler, Han Qing, received a four-year suspension.

The canoeists, Zhang Lei and Qiu Suoren, were banned for two years and the female cyclist, Wang Yan, received the lightest sanction - a six-month suspension. The bans were announced by the athletes' respective sports federations.

Officials made it clear that the announcement did not mean an end to the investigation into the doping scandal, which many international coaches and experts view as confirmation that drug-taking in China is systematic and organised. The Chinese, however , strongly reject such allegations.

"The investigation is continuing," the deputy secretary general of the Chinese Olympic Committee, He Huixian, said. "The important thing now is to find out if the athletes took the drugs voluntarily or unknowingly."

The Chinese federations will report the bans to their respective international governing bodies. If the governing bodies feel harsher penalties are warranted, the Chinese federations will comply.

This eagerness to act shows that the Chinese are desperate to limit the damage done to their reputation. Recently, Germany refused to attend swimming meets in China and asked others to follow suit.

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