- 16-year-old Ye Shiwen clocked a faster time in the water than the male world record holder at the same distance, the U.S.'s Ryan Lochte.
- Ye has passed her drug test.
- Doping tech is changing all the time and experts say a negative test doesn't mean much.
The London Olympics first doping scandal continues to grow as some sports scientist expressed doubts about the performance of 16-year-old Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen, who clocked a faster time in the water than the male world record holder at the same distance.
On Tuesday, Olympic officials said that Ye had passed her drug test.
"We would only comment if we had any adverse finding," International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams told Reuters on Tuesday. "I am not commenting, so you can draw your own conclusions."
Despite the test results, some sports scientists say Ye's performance on Saturday in the 400-meter Individual Medley is suspicious.
For one, she swam the final 50 meters of the freestyle leg in 28.93 seconds. That was faster Ryan Lochte, an American swimmer who won the men's event. During the breaststroke leg, Ye had been trailing American Elizabeth Beisel before unleashing a devastating final kick that was faster than both Lochte and Michael Phelps, who finished fourth in the men's medley. Her time on Saturday was also seven seconds faster than her own previous best time in the 400 IM last year.
"That's a massive improvement for a developing athlete," said Jonathan Dugas, adjunct professor of exercise physiology at Loyola University in Chicago and co-founder of the blog The Science of Sports.
Athletes competing at elite levels are capable of a kick finish at the end of a grueling endurance race like the 400 IM, but to achieve her winning time, Dugas said Ye would have had to be holding back an enormous reserve of energy during the first 300 meters. She would also have had to maintain that reserve while keeping up with the leaders of the race.
"The differences in the athletes at that level are very small," Dugas said. "To suggest she was much slower and then sped up so much at the end, it goes against everything that we know about how athletes pace themselves at that level."
The other bit of circumstantial evidence comes from the history of doping in the Chinese swimming program. Most occurred during the 1990s. But more recently, 16-year-old swimmer Li Zhesi, who broke a world record in the 400-meter individual medley at the 2009 World Games, tested positive for a banned hormone in March, according to Xinhua.
"If you put that together with her pacing and that she matched or had gone better than a male counterpart, the evidence stacks up against her," Dugas said.