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China steps up effort to stamp out menace of drugs in sport
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-02-10 00:11

Sport has grabbed the headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent times with a series of incidents involving tetrahydrogestrinone (THG), a new substance identified after an anonymous coach sent the US Anti-Doping Agency a syringe containing the drug.

It was later linked to a number of big names in sport and rocked track and field in Europe and North America.

China is no stranger to drug scandals -- on Friday, Budapest-based International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) announced that nine men and two women, including China's women's weightlifter Shang Shichun, tested positive at last year's world championships in Vancouver.

On November 22 last year, football player Zhang Shuai from Chinese first division club Beijing Hyundai, tested positive for ephedrine after a league match and banned for half a year, the first such case in the nation's football history.

February 6, 2004, The shocking number of cases has led to deep concern of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which has called for more rigorous efforts from the whole world to fight the menace.

Landmark regulation

In a bid to co-ordinate the worldwide anti-doping campaign and also to bring doping under the purview of the legal system, the State Council issued the "China Anti-doping Regulation'' last Tuesday, marking a new era in its step to stamp out the illegal practice.

The legislation contains 47 articles in six chapters, including criminal penalties for severe offences, and goes into effect on March 1.

"China is among a minority of countries which have published anti-doping rules on behalf of the government,'' says Li Furong, vice-head of China's State General Administration of Sports and director of the China Anti-Doping Committee. "It reflects the determination of the Chinese Government to crack down on drug use in sports and will boost the healthy development of sports in the country.''

The regulation stipulates that officials and people belonging to groups responsible for such offences be banned from working as sports administrators or engaging in activities assisting athletes for four consecutive years, or for life in the case of severe offences.

China has had a miserable doping record in recent years and the landmark regulation is seen as the latest and toughest move to repair the image.

China's sports circles knew little about doping before the 1980s but as exchanges with the outside world expanded and sports competition intensified, the drug problem began to find its way into China.

* At the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, China's women's volleyball player Wu Dan tested positive for a cough-relieving medicine which contained banned drugs.

* At the 1994 Hiroshima Asian Games, seven Chinese swimmers among 11 athletes tested positive for steroids, leaving the biggest stain in China's doping history.

* Four years later, Chinese swimmer Yuan Yuan and her coach were banned from the Perth, Australia, world championships after 13 vials of human growth hormone were discovered in swimmers' bags at Sydney airport.

Four more Chinese were suspended after testing positive for a banned diuretic.

* Champion swimmer Wu Yanyan fell two years later as she was banned for four years for testing positive in July 2000.

* Before the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, 27 athletes were axed from China's Olympics squad for suspicious blood tests.

* During 1999 and 2000, 122 players tested positive in China.

To deal with this "international nuisance,'' the State Commission for Physical Culture and Sports (SCPCS), predecessor to today's State General Administration of Sports, promulgated a number of rules in 1985 and 1987 requiring faithful adherence to International Olympic Committee (IOC) rules banning stimulant drugs.

On May 3, 1989, the SCPCS commissioner summoned a meeting specially devoted to the study of the issue of doping, which had become increasingly worrying both domestically and internationally. The meeting officially promulgated the principle of "seriously banning, strictly examining and severely punishing'' doping, known as the "Three S'' principle, which epitomizes the basic stand of the Chinese Government and sports circles on doping.

In December that year, the China Anti-Doping Centre passed the IOC qualification examination and became operational, which marked a new beginning of a comprehensive anti-doping drive in China.

In the last decade, China has achieved promising results. According to Li, in 1990, China tested only 165 samples, while last year, the number reached 5,000, covering about 40 events; the percentage of athletes testing positive in 1990 was 1.6; last year, it was only 0.33 per cent, which showed that drug usage has been well restrained in China.

Li also mentions that China's drug testing methods meet advanced global standards.

"After being established in 1990, China's drug testing lab has passed the IOC A level examination for 15 successive years,'' says Li.

Global anti-doping

"The promulgation of the Anti-Doping Regulation keeps pace with world global anti-doping actions,'' adds Li.

"The regulation has set a good example for international sports community. To fight the great challenge, all people connected to sports should take on the responsibility of eliminating drugs.''

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