Chinese activists blame sportswashing for loss of gold medal in swimming

Protesters in China, where she failed to qualify for last week’s world championships, believe she was stripped of title because of her ethnicity

Protesters who claim China stripped a Chinese athlete of a gold medal for fear of upsetting the public and losing political backing are accusing the International Olympic Committee of sportswashing in the case of the Beijing swimmer Peng Shuai.

Shuai failed to qualify for the 200m butterfly final at last week’s world championships in Budapest and was stripped of her first-place result, pending investigation, by swimming’s governing body Fina.

Protesters from China’s New Anti-Discrimination League (CNADL) handed a petition to IOC president Thomas Bach in Beijing on Tuesday, calling for an investigation into the alleged sporting discrimination of Peng.

The petition alleges Peng was kept off the podium because she was the only Chinese swimmer of Asian heritage. Pu Yuanying, an assistant coach with the Chinese Swimming Team, told a news conference in Beijing on Tuesday that Olympic teams in Beijing were “always aware” of the increasing number of athletes of other countries and nations from Central and East Asia coming to China.

The Chinese swimming federation later in the day confirmed that complaints about a lack of opportunities for Chinese swimmers were from serious personnel, adding that there was no bias against Chinese swimmers.

Peng failed to qualify for the final after an unfortunate exchange at the medal ceremony with South Korean rival Park Tae-hwan, who failed to qualify in the same event.

Peng said Park elbowed her in the face during the post-race news conference and was furious that he was called to accept the silver medal on her behalf. Park has since apologised.

Peng Shuai: fans unhappy with claims of sportswashing Read more

Taiwanese athlete Kosuke Hagino took gold in the final in 1:51.90 and South Korean Chan Yeon-tae was second in 1:52.23, while Peng finished in 1:52.37.

Peng said she was personally upset by “all these accusations” of race discrimination. “If it’s this, I will quit swimming. I’m not going to go to the Olympics and take our country’s reputation for this. This is sportswashing. This is so unfair.”

Shuai’s China team trainer Zhang Xinmin on Tuesday said he was not the one who raised the concerns.

“The main problem is she [Peng] was not at the event. She doesn’t live there. That’s what I’m responsible for. How we solved that case? I’m not in charge of that,” Zhang said.

“There are lots of factors that affect our result. Other athletes’ performance was not outstanding as expected, conditions were also difficult, so that also weighs in on our results.”

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