Swimming: Chinese challenged on drugs

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DAVE HALLER, Britain's head coach, last night called on the Chinese swimming authorities to investigate the possibility of drug abuse in their sport.

Haller, speaking at the World Championships in Rome, said that China's rapid rise to prominence had raised questions about their methods. He said that China had no female international swimmers in 1985, but began making startling improvements with the arrival shortly afterwards of an East German coach.

'It has all the hallmarks of East Germany, unfortunately,' he said. 'They (the Chinese) went in one year from nowhere to international class, in three years to Olympic class and now they are super-Olympic class. This is a sport which we measure in hundredths of a second and they are half a second ahead of everyone else.'

On Monday Le Jingyi broke the world 100 metres freestyle record by nearly half a second. Haller sympathised with the American swimmer, Jenny Thompson, who watched her record being demolished as she finished fourth.

'She must have wondered what to make of it,' he said. 'There she was, the world record holder, and she wasn't even in touch.'

Haller added: 'It's all rather sad and I hope it can be resolved. We had to deal with the East German machine, but no-one could prove anything because no one was caught. But four Chinese have already been found guilty of drug abuse.'