Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is attempting to verify the authenticity of a 1995 letter from ten Chinese runners alleging that Ma Junren, former Chinese Olympic team coach, forced them to dope. Amongst the athletes reported to have signed the letter is Wang Junxia, who broke the 10,000m world record by 42 seconds at the Chinese national championships in 1993. Junren’s team of female runners took gold in the 1,500m, 3,000m and 10,000m at the 1993 Stuttgart IAAF World Championships, taking all three medals in the 3,000m. Wang took the gold medal in the 10,000m, however was sick before the race.
The 28 March 1995 letter was sent to journalist Zhao Yu as part of his investigation into Junren’s athletes, known as ‘Ma’s Army’ and was published on 3 February 2016 by Tencent Sports. Below is a rough translation of the letter:
‘Dear Zhao: Hello! We’ve heard so much about your name, and believe you are an honest, compassionate writer. You came to our attention during a past police investigation study, which has since been filed. That involved a period in history involving blood and tears, so we are willing to provide you with all of the valuable information, the truth and facts to tell our grievances to countless honest, kind readers. It is good for us to avenge the vindicated.’
‘We talk to you about our trainer for many years on behalf of child mistreatment…it is real. Over the years we have been lured and forced to take large quantities of illegal drugs. In exposing this, we feel very bitter but it is complicated, because also the country’s reputation will be damaged. At the same time we received the gold medal through our blood and sweat, and we are worried. But these crimes must be exposed, because we do not want the same to happen to the next generation of humans. This inhuman torture has taken us to the brink of collapse.’
At the same time, we also take into consideration that fact that if you disclose the truth, in the process you may encounter obstruction and persecution (the following is an accusation against Ma Junren). But we will not let you suffer this alone. In difficult times, we will come forward and offer full support to you. This is for the healthy development of the sports industry of the motherland, for our moral and human conscience.’
‘We represent all seriously persecuted teammates, to express to you the most sincere thanks! Have mercy on us! Our group of children still die; we are human, not a machine, but not livestock; we need extraordinary life and the rights we have in life; we need freedom!’
The letter is signed by ten athletes including Wang Junxia, Liu Dong, Zhang Linli, Zhang Lirong, Lü Yi, Ning-Ning Ma, Wang Xiaoxia, Wang Yuan and two others. Zhao used the letter as part of a book, ‘Ma’s Army Investigation’, which was published in full for the first time last year, and runs to 30,000 words. Tencent Sports said that although a previous version of the book published in 1998 mentioned the alleged use of stimulants, Zhao was accused of being a liar by Ma.
A chapter of the book, entitled ‘Magic drug hits Ma’s Army’, alleges that Ma began administering substances and injections of stimulants to athletes in person in 1991. The programme allegedly resulted in changes in voice, liver disease and other complications with the athletes concerned.
Some team members coached by Ma told Zhao that they had been forced to take stimulants that exceeded the normal amount for an adult, reported CCTV News. They had reported liver pains, but were allegedly refused hospital treatment, so began throwing pills away. Ma then allegedly began personally injecting stimulants into the athletes, reports CCTV News.
“The CCTV story confirms the existence of the letter allegedly written to the journalist only became known yesterday”, said an IAAF spokesperson. “Therefore, the IAAF’s first action must be to verify that the letter is genuine. In this respect, the IAAF has asked the Chinese Athletics Association to assist it in that process. In any case, IAAF Competition Rule 260.3 (e) clearly states that if anyone makes an admission of guilt, the IAAF can take action.”
That rule allows the IAAF to take away a world record away from an athlete who has admitted using a prohibited substance or method prior to the achievement of that world record. Any decision is subject to the advice of the IAAF Medical and Anti-Doping Commission.