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--- news (8/2/2012)
Philip Campbell, Ph.D. and Editor-in-Chief of Nature,

I am a neurobiologist in University of California, Berkeley, USA. I (as well as many of my colleagues) found an article that appeared in Nature yesterday, titled "Why great Olympic feats raise suspicions"Ã,‚,Â,,, completely groundless and extremely disturbing.

In that article, Mr. Callaway questioned China's 16-year-old swimmer Ye Shiwen, who won two gold medals in womenÃ,¢a‚,¬,Ë,œ,s 200-meter and 400-meter individual medley (400 IM), in London Olympics, and said her record-breaking performance "anomalous"Ã,‚,Â,,. However, the evidence he used to support his reckless statement is simply groundless.

As many have pointed out in the major media, it is not uncommon for an elite and young swimmer to increase his/her performance in a relatively short time window. An Australian swimmer and Olympics gold medalist, Ian Thorpe, said that he improved his 400-meter performance by 5 seconds around the same age as Ye. UK's Adrian Moorhouse, a Seoul Olympics gold medalist, also testified openly that he "improved four seconds"Ã,‚,Â,, at the age of 17. He also called the suspicions around Ye's performance "sour grape"Ã,‚,Â,,.

The other point that Ewen Callaway used to support his accusation, that Ye swam faster than US swimmer Ryan Lochte in the last 50 meters when he won gold in the men's 400 IM, is unfortunately also unprovoked. First of all, Ryan Lochte did not perform the best in the final 50 meters. He only ranked 5th in the last 50 meters, at 29Ã,¢a‚,¬,Â,,10, which was significantly slower than Japan's Yuya Horihata (27Ã,¢a‚,¬,Å,“87Ã,ˉÂ,¼,a€°, and three other swimmers competing in the same event. (Ye's performance was 28"Ã,‚,Â,,93). It could be that Lochte was away ahead of his competitors in the first three splits so he did not have to strike too hard in the final 50 meters, or that he had used up all his energy. So one cannot only look at the final 50 meters of Ye and Lochte and conclude that Ye swam faster than a men's champion. In fact, Ye's record-breaking performance in women's 400 IM (4'28"43) was significantly slower than Lochte's 4'5"18,. Secondly, even if one only looks at the performance of the final 50 meters, women can certainly surpass men and Ye's performance shouldn't be accused as "anomalous"Ã,‚,Â,,. For example, in last year's World Championships in Shanghai, UK's swimmer Rebecca Adlington won a gold medal in women's 800-meter freestyle. In that event her performance in her final 50 meters (28"90) was faster than both Ye and Lochte in London.

It is worth pointing out that all the facts I listed above can be easily tracked in major media and from the Internet. With just a little effort Ewen Callaway could have avoided raising groundless and disturbing charges against China's young athlete in a professional scientific journal.

Even worse, Ewen Callaway further argued that Ye's clean drug test in Olympics Ã,¢a‚,¬,Å,“doesn't rule out the possibility of dopingÃ,¢a‚,¬,Â,,Ã,‚,Â,,, implying that Ye might have doped Ã,¢a‚,¬,Å,“during trainingÃ,¢a‚,¬,Â,, and escape the more rigorous tests during Olympics. Such a statement is disrespectful to Ye and all professional athletes. Following this logic, Mr. Callaway can easily accuse any athlete Ã,¢a‚,¬,Å,“dopingÃ,¢a‚,¬,Â,,Ã,‚,Â,, without any evidence, and ironically, according to him, those being accused have no way to prove themselves innocent: even if they pass all rigorous drug test, they could still have doped at a different time, or even doped some unidentified drugs! I cannot help wondering if presumption of innocence (innocent until proven guilty) still has people's belief nowadays, or it is considered outdated in Nature, or in UK?

Last but not least, although Mr. Callaway claimed that he was attempting to discuss science, instead of "racial and political undertones"Ã,‚,Â,,. Readers can easily smell the hidden (yet clearly implied) racism and discrimination. Yes, we may all agree that better methodology for drug test (such as "biological passport") is needed for the anti-doping effort. But why the stunning performance from this 16-year-old gifted swimmer can lead to such a proposal? Was Mr. Callaway suggesting that Ye was found drug-clean simply because the drug detection method was not advanced enough? At the end of the article, Mr. Callaway even quoted "When we look at this young swimmer from China who breaks a world record, that's not proof of anything. It asks a question or two." So athletes from China, despite their talent and training, are supposed to perform bad and never break world records, otherwise they deserve to be questioned, suspected, and accused? Backed up by technological progress and better training/supporting systems, athletes worldwide are maximizing their potentials. World records are being refreshed every year. USA's Michael Phelps just won a record 19th medals in Olympics and he has broken numerous swimming world records. Shall we also "ask a question or two"Ã,‚,Â,, about his "anomalous"Ã,‚,Â,, performance?

Nature is considered one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world, many scientists, including myself, chose Nature to publish their best work (I myself have co-authored three papers published in Nature and Nature sister journals). However, Mr. Callaway's article, which is not only misleading, but also full of racial and political bias, has tainted Nature's reputation in the scientific community, and among the general audience. Unless Nature takes further actions (e.g. publicly retract this article and apologize to Ye and all athletes), I hereby decide not to send my work to Nature any more-and believe me I will not be the last one to protest.

Liming Wang, PhD
Bowes Research Fellow
Department of Molecular and Cell Biology
University of California, Berkeley
CA 94720 USA
Nickname or Accout id (editing available):
Enter number: 215312

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