The China Daily ran a story this morning (h/t @kinablog) entitled “The meat athletes eat can get them branded as cheats“.
An official from the General Administration of Sport of China (GASC) denied reports that athletes were banned in January from eating untested pork, beef and lamb in an attempt to avoid doping scandals in the run-up to the London Olympics.
Still, extreme caution is in order.
“The administration has never banned athletes from eating meat. It just reminded them to be on alert,” said Chen Zhiyu, head of the general office of GASC’s science and education department.
Chinese media reported earlier this month that Olympic champion hurdler Liu Xiang hasn’t eaten pork for years due to fears he could accidentally consume clenbuterol – known in China as “lean meat powder” – the banned performance-enhancing substance that led to Olympic judo champion Tong Wen’s two-year suspension in 2010.
“I specifically checked with the 110m hurdles team’s leader, Yang Jimin,” Chen said. “He felt pretty angry (when he heard the report). He emphasized Liu has never stopped eating pork.”
This is hardly a recent issue. I blogged about this problem in the lead-up to the Beijing 2008 Olympics when the sourcing of local food became an issue for a U.S. Olympic Committee caterer who came upon a 14″ half-breast of chicken in a local market – “enough to feed a family of eight” – that was riddled with steroids. “We had it tested and it was so full of steroids that we never could have given it to athletes. They all would have tested positive.” See here.
According to a 2008 article in the Daily Telegraph, “[T]he International Olympics Committee [IOC] previously stated competitors are banned from bringing their own food to the athletes’ village to protect the rights of sponsors like McDonalds and to police the use of illegal substances.” This is just another example of how collusive the IOC, and especially Jacques Rogge, was with the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG). This shoddy relationship between two corrupt organizations was a non-secret among those who paid the least bit of attention back in the oughts, after China
bought was granted the Olympics.
According to this morning’s China Daily piece, “The World Anti-Doping Agency issued a warning last November to athletes traveling to China and Mexico, urging them to exercise extreme caution when eating meat.” That said, the Chinese athletes at the national training center in Beijing are forbidden to eat in restaurants outside the center, a restriction that I imagine pre-dates the World Anti-Doping Agency’s advisory by several years.
Whether or not Liu Xiang, the great hurdler, eats pork is his business, though in China pork is the deal. When you say meat (ròu) it means pork. The character for both family and home is a pig beneath a roof. Here, pork is deep, which explains why Chen Zhiyu so adamantly disputes Liu’s reported pork snub.
In fairness, this is not exclusively a Chinese problem. Laced food is finding its way into the worldwide consumption chain, though in China it is easy to imagine that there is more juicing of livestock going on than anywhere else. It’s a numbers thing, not necessarily a cultural one. There are a lot more people in China doing what they think must be done in order to get by. Trying to make money is not easy, unless, of course, you’re at the top of the CPC heap, where there’s more money than a mule can shit. Just don’t try eating the mule. If you do, there may be no gold medals in your future, and you’re going to have to buy bigger hats. It’s that Barry Bonds thing all over again.