Drug strife embroils games

Chinese swimmer, Bulgarian runner first two to test positive for banned substances in Rio

BEIJING • The dark spectre of doping fell on the Rio Games, as it was announced that two Olympic athletes failed their doping tests.

Chinese swimmer Chen Xinyi is one of them, the official Xinhua news agency reported yesterday, citing the Chinese Swimming Association (CSA).

She tested positive for hydrochlorothiazide, a diuretic, last Sunday, it said. On that day, the 18-year-old took part in the women's 100m butterfly final, finishing fourth.

Chen has applied to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for her 'B' sample to be tested and for a hearing, it added.

Diuretics increase urination rates and can be used as "masking agents" to hide the presence of performance-enhancing substances that doping tests screen for.

Chen first made the headlines when she won gold in the 100m butterfly and 50m freestyle at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, with times that set championship records.

The country has already been embroiled in doping controversy in Rio, after Australia's Mack Horton called Sun Yang, China's most successful swimmer, a "drug cheat" - inciting a social media firestorm and prompting a formal demand for an apology by Chinese officials.

Sun served a three-month doping ban in 2014, which was only announced retrospectively by the Chinese authorities.

French swimmer Camille Lacourt also waded into the row after Sun won gold in the 200m freestyle final, telling a French radio station: "Sun Yang, he pisses purple."

In March, the CSA revealed that six Chinese swimmers had tested positive for drugs in the preceding months, including three for hydrochlorothiazide. Two of the six athletes were disciplined with only warnings.

The other athlete to be caught for doping was Bulgarian Silvia Danekova, as track and field's dented reputation was hit again. Bulgarian television said the 33-year-old tested positive for the blood booster EPO.

The 3,000m steeplechase athlete, who was due to run tonight, denied wrongdoing, saying: "I am not guilty, I have done nothing wrong. Four tests were done, three of them were negative. We found out my fourth test was positive."

The revelations came after the IOC confirmed that a second Kenyan coach had been sent home from the Games.

Media reports named the official as sprint coach John Anzrah, saying he had attempted to impersonate athlete Ferguson Rotich during a doping test and gave a urine sample on his behalf.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2016, with the headline 'Drug strife embroils games'. Print Edition | Subscribe