The work of the German journalist, Hajo Seppelt, in uncovering a number of ground-breaking doping stories in the past few years has been truly remarkable. Seppelt, who works for the German public broadcaster ARD, has played a key role in the breaking of a number of stories about doping in sport including numerous serious allegations of cheating against Russian and Kenyan authorities and athletes.

ARD’s latest programme in their ever-growing list of revelations about corruption within sport is centred around an interview with Xue Yinxian, a Chinese physician who is said to have looked after a number of Chinese national teams in the 1980s and 90s.

Xue has alleged that during those decades, Chinese athletes, including every single medal-winner in every major championship, benefitted from systematic doping and that anyone who was against doping was “a danger to the country”.

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That Chinese athletes potentially doped throughout those years comes as no surprise – it has long been suspected that a number of Chinese athletes, particularly female distance runners, won world titles and other major races through less than legitimate means.

What is most disheartening about ARD’s latest investigation though is the suggestion that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has ignored these claims for a number of years. It certainly seems this was the case; Xue told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2012 that doping in China was “rampant in the 1980s” and said that anyone who rejected drugs “would face punishment or criticism”, yet no action was taken by WADA nor any other authority.

Certainly, considering its limited budget, WADA cannot investigate every single allegation but when the claims are being made by a creditable source such as Xue, it would appear to be in WADA’s interest to follow them up.

I am not necessarily a fan of continuously looking back and raking up old ground. There is, without question, a case for re-allocating medals but I remain unconvinced that resources are best used by trawling through wrong-doings in the past rather than using the time, effort and money more productively by attempting to prevent, or at least limit, levels of cheating going forward.

However, the issue with this seemingly continuous stream of stories alleging that authorities, including WADA and the IOC, have turned a blind eye to serious misdemeanours only serves to perpetuate the belief that they are not fully committed to cleaning up sport.

Sport may not be best served by WADA going out of its way to reveal doping in decades gone by but when the agency is presented with these claims on a plate, as happened when Xue spoke out in 2012, and it fails to act until ARD really hammers the issue home five years later, the public’s belief in sport is severely eroded even further.

There are few sports in which China excels that are not riddled with rumours of Chinese athletes doping. During the entirety of my badminton career, Chinese players were utterly dominant and I lost count of the number of stories and allegations against them.

This is not to say the rumours were necessarily true but I certainly never got the impression that everything was being done to investigate the allegations.

Xue was dismissed from the Chinese national team for refusing to give a young gymnast a banned substance at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul and has said that children as young as 11 were taking banned drugs to improve their performance.

In China, in comparison to the UK, what the coach says, goes. Going against a coach’s instructions is unthinkable if you want to retain your place in the squad, which is why these allegations of coach-led doping programmes are so believable.

It remains to be seen whether these allegations of doping in the 80s and 90s transpire to be true or if we ever even get an answer. But there is certainly a feeling amongst many elite athletes that there has been, and may well still be, some nefarious goings-on in China.

Nothing is proven, and the case of state-sponsored doping in Russia has highlighted just how hard it is to uncover such a plot.

We may never know if Chinese athletes in the 80s and 90s won their medals through cheating and there is a significant part of me that believes that it doesn’t really matter anymore.

But while stories of cover-ups and allegations being ignored continue to flow, we will never get to a point where we can believe anything we are seeing nowadays.

AND ANOTHER THING…

The women’s national football team put in an impressive performance at the Paisley 2021 stadium on Wednesday evening, beating Albania 5-0 in their second World Cup qualifying match.

Pick of the goals was Claire Emslie’s screamer which helped secure the victory and backed up the team’s 2-1 win over Belarus in their opening qualifier last week.

However, the BBC’s Reporting Scotland programme the evening of the match did not show even a second of the women’s victory, something that would be unthinkable had the men just gone two for two.

The women’s team are flying the flag for Scotland in international football at the moment and the BBC ignoring this fact is just not good enough.