Chinese Whistleblower Claims Over 10,000 Athletes Were Doped in 80s and 90s

A former doctor for the Chinese Olympic team during the 1980s and 1990s has turned whistleblower. Xue Yinxian, now 79 years old, claims that during her tenure, over 10,000 Chinese athletes, including weightlifters, swimmers, and gymnasts, were involved in doping.

On a recent German documentary, she asserted that doping was compulsory and athletes not willing to participate had to leave the team. The doping began as young as age 11 for some athletes, she says, and recalls boys aged around 13 growing breasts. China won sixty Olympic medals during the 1984 and 1988 Olympics, including four weightlifting gold medals in 1984.

Medals were tainted by doping – gold, silver and bronze. There must have been more than 10,000 people involved. People believed only in doping, anyone who took doping substances was seen to be defending the country. All international medals [won by Chinese athletes in that time] should be taken back.

There’s likely little chance of this happening, since the statute of limitations has long since passed.

She was allegedly dismissed from her role as an Olympic doctor at the Seoul Olympics in 1988 after refusing to provide a banned substance to a gymnast, but stayed working in Chinese sports at lower levels. During the 1990s and 2000s she says she was repeatedly visited by government officials, particularly during high profile sporting events, and warned against speaking out about her experiences. Xue fled China for Germany in 2012, saying she no longer felt safe in Beijing.

“Anyone against doping damaged the country and anyone who endangered the country now sits in prison,” she told ARD. “They warned me against talking about doping substances. They urged me to back down. I said I couldn’t do that. They wanted to silence me… both of my sons lost their jobs.”

This isn’t the first time China’s Olympic athletes have been accused of doping — in February, athletes trained by Chinese track coach Ma Junren said that they had been forced to take performance-enhancing drugs. Earlier this week, China’s one-year suspension from international weightlifting began as a result of retests from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. But the accusations have never reached this scale.

The World Anti-Doping Agency has released a statement that says although it was only formed in 1999, it “has asked its independent Intelligence and Investigations team to initiate an investigative process in order to collect and analyze available information in coordination with external partners.”

Featured image via Frank Rothwell on YouTube.

Nick English

Nick English

Nick is a content producer and journalist with over seven years’ experience reporting on four continents. His first articles about health were on a cholera outbreak in rural Kenya while he was reporting for a French humanitarian organization. His next writing job was covering the nightlife scene in Shanghai. He’s written on a lot of things.

After Shanghai, he went on to produce a radio documentary about bodybuilding in Australia before finishing his Master’s degrees in Journalism and International Relations and heading to New York City. Here, he’s been writing on health full time for more than five years for outlets like BarBend, Men's Health, VICE, and Popular Science.

No fan of writing in the third person, Nick’s passion for health stems from an interest in self improvement: How do we reach our potential?

Questions like these took him through a lot of different areas of health and fitness like gymnastics, vegetarianism, kettlebell training, fasting, CrossFit, Paleo, and so on, until he realized (or decided) that strength training fit best with the ideas of continuous, measurable self improvement.

At BarBend his writing focuses a little more on nutrition and long-form content with a heaping dose of strength training. His underlying belief is in the middle path: you don’t have to count every calorie and complete every workout in order to benefit from a healthy lifestyle and a stronger body. Plus, big traps are cool.

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