And Finally

Failing the test

Women weightlifters under pressure in China

China's Xueying Li lifts 108 Kg on snatch setting new Olympic record on the women's 58Kg Group A weightlifting competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games

Weighty debate

Underwater swimming, motorboat racing and the tug-of-war – all events that have been cut from the Olympics over the decades.

Plenty of Chinese would like to add female weightlifting to the list.

China has excelled in female weightlifting since it was introduced as an Olympic sport sixteen years ago, although a doping scandal involving three gold medallists from the 2008 games has many questioning the morality of the discipline.

The argument goes like this: women aren’t built for the sport and so they have to dope to win.

“In the world of women’s weightlifting taking stimulants is a repeated problem. Women do not have the explosive power needed to lift weights competitively but the lure of Olympic medals is strong so they resort to drugs,” the Global Times suggests.

Another widely read piece from a blog by sports commentator Youma Tiyu called for a ban, saying that China was too focused on gold medals and not enough on the well-being of its weightlifters.

“It is not difficult to understand why in the last few games, only Chinese people and former Soviet Union countries can stand on the podium… the way they train the athletes are similar – results come first, health second,” the blogger added.

Three of China’s gold medal winners – Chen Xiexia, Liu Chuntong and Cao Lei – will be stripped of their titles after the retesting of their old samples last month. All tested positive for the GHRP-2 growth hormone, while Liu’s sample also contained traces of the banned supplement sibutramine, the International Weightlifting Federation said.

Even before the results, many had doubted they were clean. At the 2008 Olympics they all lifted 10kg more than their nearest rivals when competitors are normally separated by little more than a single kilogram. But TIME magazine joined the debate, claiming that many of the athletes going through China’s state run sport system have little idea what they are taking as supplements, including tablets from trainers to make them “strong.”

While it’s clear that China’s Soviet-style approach to training Olympians needs to be overhauled, it isn’t so obvious that female weightlifting should be banned altogether. Some netizens took issue with the sexist tone of some of the articles, especially the claim that weightlifting is wrong because it forces women to build muscle and put on weight.

Veteran sports commentator Lu Dong even said the sport should be dropped on the grounds that the female body should be “soft and slim”.

“Come on, the Olympics isn’t a beauty contest,” an irritated netizen responded.

The athletes in question are still to be formally disqualified by the IOC. More seriously still, the Chinese weightlifting team could suffer the humiliation of a complete ban.

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