The life ban on Ouyang Kunpeng, China’s top men’s backstroke swimmer, for doping is an exemplary punishment. Two years would be the customary penalty for a first such offense.
Ouyang tested positive in May for using clenbuterol, a drug that promotes muscle growth. At least three other Chinese swimmers have been suspended for six months or more for use of the drug in recent years.
Ouyang was regarded as having an outside shot at an Olympic medal so his ban indicates the authorities aren’t prepared to risk a doping scandal at these Games. That would only reawaken suspicions that widespread doping has continued after the high-profile scandals in the 1990s when more than 40 Chinese swimmers tested positive and the national swimming association admitted it had no control over coaches in the provinces.
All Chinese athletes selected for the Beijing Olympics will be screened for banned substances before the Games. Those who fail the drugs tests will be strictly and publicly punished, says Zhao Jian, head of the anti-doping office at the Chinese Olympic Committee.
Last year, China conducted 10,238 anti-doping tests, in and out of competition, and uncovered 15 positive samples, seven of them from weightlifters.