Are Olympic Weightlifters on Steroids? Of course, they are.Four years ago, just down the street from the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, Liu Chunhong was heaving discs of metal into the air, just as she had done from the time she was a little girl. By the time I met the Chinese tkae, she was already a legend, a double Olympic champion and world-record holder in the kg weight class. Liu stood at the deca durabolin holland of do olympic weightlifters take steroids Chinese state sports system, which had fashioned world champions out of hundreds of thousands of children in government-run sports academies. The goal of this massive enterprise? To bring China international glory through Olympic gold.
China: 3 Olympic Weightlifters Fail Drugs Test From | Time
Four years ago, just down the street from the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, Liu Chunhong was heaving discs of metal into the air, just as she had done from the time she was a little girl. By the time I met the Chinese weightlifter, she was already a legend, a double Olympic champion and world-record holder in the kg weight class.
Liu stood at the apex of the Chinese state sports system, which had fashioned world champions out of hundreds of thousands of children in government-run sports academies. The goal of this massive enterprise? To bring China international glory through Olympic gold. Chinese sports czars funneled money to pursuits like weightlifting, which are less lavishly funded in other nations.
They compelled child athletes to do little else but train. We do everything together, and we work harder than everyone else. It was, Liu said, one of her most-valued possessions. Eight other weightlifting medalists from other nations were also snared. Doping is a scourge across weightlifting, and China is hardly the only offender. At the Rio Games earlier this month, the first Olympic medalist to be stripped of a medal for a failed drug test was a weightlifter from Kyrgyzstan.
Nor is the sport the only one to suffer from drug cheats. In the run-up to Rio and during the competition itself, everyone from a canoeist and a cyclist to a steeplechaser and a Kenyan coach posing as an athlete were nabbed by antidoping officials. Nevertheless, there is a difference between individuals who choose to pump themselves full of banned substances — Americans Lance Armstrong and Marion Jones, to take but two high-profile examples — and those who are part of state-sponsored sports systems that give athletes minimal control over their bodies.
That was the case with East Germany, for instance, which pumped its female swimmers so full of steroids they resembled men. A Chinese swimmer was disqualified from Rio as well, for a doping offense. Whistle-blowers are rare but Zhou Chunlan , a onetime weightlifting national champion, remembers swallowing pills during training without having any idea what they were. Eventually, she grew a beard.
In Rio, despite sending its largest Olympic delegation ever, China claimed 26 gold medals, a disappointing third-place finish. For years now, fewer Chinese parents have been willing to sacrifice their kids for a sports system that skimps on academics and can only ensure success for a tiny fraction of athletes. If Liu and the other Chinese weightlifters are stripped of their Beijing gold medals, the question remains: Did they have any choice in any doping?
Liu, who was originally selected as a judo athlete, has toiled in the state sports system since she was a little girl. Eight years ago, I visited a shabby sports school in eastern Shandong province where young weightlifters spent the days in a clanging gym in lieu of primary school. After training, the kids, with their callused and chalk-stained hands, walked up to a table lined with paper cups. Each cup held a few pills, which they swallowed, one after the other, with gulps of warm water.
What were the pills for? I asked one girl. When I asked if I could take one of the pills home with me — I wanted to see whether it really was just herbs — he refused. They were too expensive to waste on someone not in the Chinese sports system.
Liu Chunhong of China sets a new world record in the kg snatch of the women's kg weightlifting event at the Olympic Games in Beijing on Aug. Sign Up for Our Newsletters Sign up to receive the top stories you need to know now on politics, health, money and more.