The Cleveland Leader asks how did the Chinese 4x100m relay team make up so much ground so quickly.
Michael Phelps wasn't the only one making waves in the pool today. The Chinese women's relay team was the top qualifier in the 4x100m freestyle competition. While that in itself may not be enough to arose suspicion, chew on this: coming into the heats, the team ranked an average of #39 in the world. Coming out of the heats, they became the top-seed and the team to beat in the relay. As the Chinese celebrated, alarm bells went off in just about everyone else.
The Leader says the Chinese were not so good just a few months ago. They must be very dedicated.
The Chinese have not fared well in swimming any time recently. At 2007's World Championships, the Chinese won two medals, a silver and a bronze. Compare that to the United States, which won 20 golds, 13 silvers and 3 bronzes. How can the sudden, drastic improvement be explained?
The highest-ranked Chinese swimmer in the 100-freestyle was Pang Jiaying at #11. She anchored the relay in 52.83. The foursome's time of 3 minutes 36.78 seconds set a new Asian record and was just three seconds shy of the world record, which was set earlier this year by the Dutch. Germany finished in second at 3:37.52, and the United States pulled in third at 3.37.53.
Pang's portion of the relay was by far her best time this year by an astounding 1.34 seconds, and the fastest split by any swimmer in the event by over one second. Again, this left many wondering what could account for that much of a time drop.
Not that there is any reason for suspicions here the Chinese have always been clean (not)
If the Chinese team were found to be cheating, it wouldn't be the first time. During the 1990's, 30 Chinese swimmers failed drug tests in international competition, and in recent years they've been relative non-factors on the competitive swimming circuit. This year the Chinese had the same number of swimmers failing drug tests as the Americans.
In the months leading up to the Games, the big rumor in the international swimming world was that China had a shadow team that it was keeping largely sequestered, making it easier to escape the radar of drug testers. That notion was dismissed by Mark Shubert, the US national team director, and Eddie Reese again on Saturday.
Did the Chinese team work really work that hard to improve? Do they have some kind of home field advantage? Or, have they perhaps been artificially aided through steroids or even genetic enhancements? If they continue to uncharacteristically smash the competition in swimming, the allegations of cheating will only get stronger.