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The Political Olympics

August 9th, 2012 27 comments

As the Olympics wind down in London, there can be little doubt in anyone’s mind that this Olympics is about politics.  How else can one explain the string of smears against Chinese athletes and their performances – coming from unexpected sources such as the prestigious journal of Nature – all in the name of “science and objectivity” – as well as expected sources such as the NY Times – where personal tragic setbacks such as Liu Xiang’s can be made into a kind of political statement?

Nature’s article on Ye Shiwen was especially troublesome.  The editors of Nature wrote:

At the Olympics, how fast is too fast? That question has dogged Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen after the 16-year-old shattered the world record in the women’s 400-metre individual medley (400 IM) on Saturday. In the wake of that race, some swimming experts wondered whether Ye’s win was aided by performance-enhancing drugs. She has never tested positive for a banned substance and the International Olympic Committee on Tuesday declared that her post-race test was clean. The resulting debate has been tinged with racial and political undertones, but little science. Nature examines whether and how an athlete’s performance history and the limits of human physiology could be used to catch dopers.

Nature then went through the “science” of how unusual, super-human Ye’s performance and how a clean drug test during competition does not necessarily rule out the possibility of doping. Read more…