THE women's 1500 and 3000 metres world records fell at the National

Games in Beijing over the weekend, cranking up China's athletics

reputation a further notch, but in such outrageous fashion as further to

heighten suspicions about their legality.

Wang Junxia clocked 8min. 12.02sec. for 3000m yesterday, carving 10

seconds from Tatyana Kazankina's nine-year old best. Yet this was only

the semi-finals of the meeting, and five women were inside the previous

best of 8-22.62.

Further orient excess can be expected in today's final in the

showpiece games, which are being attended by International Olympic

Committee delegates who vote a week on Thursday whether Beijing should

host the 2000 Olympics.

Wang's performance was her third world record assault in five days.

Last Wednesday she broke the world 10,000m best, and on Saturday she was

inside the world mark for 1500m, but was beaten by Qu Yunxia.

But Wang is the first woman to hold both 3000 and 10,000m bests

simultaneously since the IAAF recognised records. Winning both events

has earned Wang #9000 -- a fortune in her province of Liaoning.

Qu, aged 20, and not even world champion at the metric mile, clocked

3-50.46, removing more than two seconds from the 13-year old time which

also stood to the Soviet, Kazankina. Qu -- who headed a Chinese sweep of

the 3000m medals in Stuttgart -- was followed home by Wang in 3-51.92.

Also 20, Wang ran a 2-24 marathon this year. No man has ever shown

such a range. Wang is simply the greatest endurance runner ever.

But suspicions are inevitable. Since random dope-testing was

introduced, in 1988, no woman had run faster than 8-32 for 3000m until

this year.

Wang, this weekend, made categorical denial of having used drugs.

Chinese coaches are speaking of special diets of stewed turtles' meat,

but angrily deny drug allegations.

Ma Juren, who coaches both record-breakers, says the only medicinal

preparation his runners use is a concoction made of caterpillar fungus,

while their sports medicine specialists speak of ancient herbal


Few Westerners are any more convinced than when Kazankina set the

previous 1500m mark.

The Russian beat Mary Decker by seven seconds. Briton Chris Boxer was

a further 10 seconds behind, and retired prematurely, citing drug-taking

rivals as the major factor. Kazankina was subsequently convicted of


The world's leading women's distance runners, including the reigning

Olympic 800 and 1500m champions, in Edinburgh yesterday for the Princes

Street Mile, were highly sceptical, finding it hard to come to terms

with the Chinese achievements.

American Lynn Jennings, three-time world cross-country champion, who

finished fifth behind Wang in Stuttgart, broke down in tears when told

about the 10,000m record.

''I believe these performances are out of scale,'' she said. ''I

believe they are derived from something illicit.''

Male runners are equally sceptical. Qu's 1500m time would have won

every Scottish men's title for the past three years -- better than the

winning times of internationalists Glen Stewart or Robert Fitzsimmons.

But whatever doping doubts exist, there are none over the rewards for

success in China -- bonuses equivalent to almost 128 years' pay.

Gold medal winners from Gansu province have been promised a prize of

100,000 yuan, or #11,290. The average wage of a rural worker in the

province last year was 784 yuan. Four Gansu athletes have won so far.

That would equate in Scotland to a bonus of more than #1.2m each,

based on what the average farm worker could earn in 128 years.

Women's world 1500m and 3000m records since the International Amateur

Athletic Association began recognising them:

1500 metres

4-17.3 Anne Smith (Britain) 1967

4-15.6 Maraia Gomers (Holland) 1967

4-12.4 Paola Pigni (Italy) 1960

4-10.7 Jaroslava Jehlickova (Czech) 1969

4-09.6 Karen Burneleit (E Germany) 1971

4-06.9 Lyudmila Bragina (USSR) 1972

4-06.5 Bragina 1972

4-05.1 Bragina 1972

4-01.4 Bragina 1972

3-56.0 Tatayana Kazankina (USSR) 1976

3-55.0 Kazankina 1980

3-52.47 Kazankina 1980

3-50.46 Qu Yunxia (China) 1993

3000 metres

8-53.0 Lyudmila Bragina (USSR) 1972

8-52.8 Bragina 1974

8-46.6 Grete Andersen (Norway) 1975

8-45.4 Andersen 1976

8-27.2 Bragina 1976

8-26.78 Svetlana Ulmasova (USSR) 1982

8-22.62 Tatiana Kazankina (USSR) 1984

8-12.20 Wang Junxia (China) 1993