How Communists Compete

Posted: Jul 19, 2001 12:00 AM
Now that the rulers of Red China have clinched the 2008 Olympics, expect them to do everything in their authoritarian power to ensure that their athletes live up to the motto of the Games: "Faster, higher, stronger." How will they accomplish this goal and win the prized medal count at Beijing? Systematically, coercively and by any means necessary. So look out for the Chinese medicine men. In the high-stakes bid for Olympic glory, the cheaters' path to the podium is paved with performance-enhancing drugs. Over the past decade, the Chinese have skyrocketed from so-so competitors into superhuman athletes. Chinese coaches and officials deny rampant, organized drug use, but the results speak for themselves: -- Running. In 1993, Chinese women runners came out of nowhere and swept the 1,500-meter, 3,000-meter and 10,000-meter races at the World Championships in Stuttgart; captured three junior records; set the four fastest marathon times of the year; took the first four places in the World Cup Marathon; and broke six world records at the Beijing National Games (including the 10,000-meter record, which was shattered by an eye-popping 42 seconds). Before that record-breaking year, the country had earned just seven medals at the last three world track-and-field championships combined. China's leading track-and-field coach, Ma Junren, credited hard training and a secret potion of Chinese herbs, caterpillar fungus and turtle's blood for his team's sudden emergence. Wiser observers detected something else in Ma's stew: the blood-boosting drug erythropoietin (EPO), which increases endurance levels by allowing for more oxygen in red blood cells. "The rumors about my athletes being on drugs are created by the Western media," Ma complained. But since 1993, the Chinese women runners have failed to duplicate their performances, and most disappeared after drug rumors persisted. When global anti-drug officials began administering EPO tests, all but one member of Ma's team were booted off the Chinese contingent sent to the 2000 Sydney Games. -- Swimming. At the 1994 World Swimming Championships in Rome, Chinese women won 12 of the 16 swimming and diving world titles and set five world records. China's swimmers and divers also touted herbal supplements for their new dominance. But there was more than just ginseng in the mix. Seven Chinese swimmers were stripped of nine gold medals at the 1994 Asian Games in Hiroshima because of drug use, and four more tested positive for a banned diuretic at the 1998 World Championships in Perth, Australia. Australian customs officials caught one swimmer with 13 vials of the human growth hormone somatotropin -- enough to supply the entire Chinese team. -- Weightlifting. Chinese women lifters broke 24 world records in recent years -- some by wide and unprecedented margins. But the international federation governing the sport refused to ratify the records, citing the absence of internationally recognized doping controls. In 1994, two female weightlifters tested positive for anabolic steroids at the World Championships in Istanbul. Red-feathered birds flock together. China's Olympic game plan -- drugs, dominance and denial -- comes straight from the pages of the old Soviet Bloc. For decades, rumors of state-sponsored drug use swirled around Russian and East German athletes. The Communist governments called Western accusers sore losers and complained of media bias. But after the fall of the Berlin Wall, government documents and court testimony revealed that as many as 10,000 athletes received drugs -- most involuntarily -- from 1968 to 1988. East German coaches and sports doctors confessed, then hopped on a plane to China to share their techniques with Communist comrades. As part of its public relations blitz for Beijing 2008, the Chinese government has taken a hard-line, anti-drug posture. But actions speak louder than words. We know how the Chinese government acts when national pride is at stake. Beijing's idea of "fairness" is to confiscate one of our military planes after causing it to crash, hold the American crew hostage, demand an apology, and then send us a $1 million bill for the costs of room and board. And we know how the Chinese government acts when faced with truly threatening competition. Beijing deals with political, academic and religious rivals by torturing, abducting and crushing them to death. Why would we expect their idea of fair competition in the sports arena to be any less crooked and ruthless?