SWIMMING Chinese given warm welcome

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China's swimmers were given a warm welcome in Paris when they returned to international competition for the first time since being plunged into controversy over drug-taking at last year's Asian Games.

"Why should all the swimmers other than those who tested positive for drugs be forced to stay in their own country," the German, Sandra Volker, said after the meeting on Monday. Volker lost a short-course world 50m record last year to Bai Xuiyu, who a few days later tested positive for ephedrine.

Ye Peipei, who won the 50m in 26.36sec and was runner-up in the 100m freestyle, only wanted to talk about visiting the Louvre museum. Han Yuhui, second in the 50m butterfly, was more interested in French fashions and perfume.

Roger Gueret, organiser of the meeting, said neither the French Olympic Committee nor the swimming federation had asked him to bar the Chinese swimmers. "There was no reason not to welcome them with open arms as we have done in the past," he said.

However, for the first time in 12 years drug tests were carried out at the meeting.

The Chinese have sent a squad of four women and two men to Europe, where they will also compete in Barcelona, Monaco and Israel. Seven swimmers, including world champions Lu Bin and Yang Aihua, failed drug tests at the Asian Games last October.