A World Championship that produced 10 world records has left swimming in a daze. With the specter of doping looming large again, the sport doesn't know whether to celebrate or hide in shame.
"I have never seen a situation where, if you win, you are tarred with doing something crooked," Australian coach Don Talbot said. "If (drug-cheating) is allowed to keep going, then we are not going to have a sport."Describing performance-enhancing drugs as "the single greatest threat to the progress and integrity of the sport," 18 coaches signed a declaration calling on swimming's governing body, FINA, to act now to clean up the sport.
Although the coaches didn't mention China by name, most of the doping accusations have been pointed at China's women swimmers, who won 12 of the 16 events and broke five world records at the Championships which ended Sunday.
Dennis Pursley, national swimming director of the United States team, was among the 18 who called on FINA to institute testing on 24 hours notice.
He said there was a danger of clean athletes following the same course as the cheats simply to keep up with them.
"It's a huge concern," Pursley said. "I think the majority of athletes won't be drawn into that. They would rather accept losing or getting out of the sport than cheat to win."
The non-Chinese who broke world records at the Championships were Germany's Franzi Van Almsick (200 freestyle), American Tom Dolan (400 individual medley), Australians Samantha Riley (100 breaststroke) and Kieren Perkins (400 freestyle) and Finland's Jani Sievinen (200 medley).
Of the Chinese, Le Jingyi set records in the 50 and 100 freestyle, He Cihong broke the 100 backstroke record., and the relay teams won the 400 freestyle and medley in world record times. Le Jingyi won five gold medals, including three in relays.
The best performance by a Chinese man came from Wang Yiwu, who was sixth in a 200 breaststroke consolation final.
Van Almsick's performance was even more remarkable because she hadn't qualified for the final.
She was ninth-fastest and only made the final when No. 8 qualifier Dagmar Hase, her countrywoman, mysteriously pulled out.