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The Dark Plot behind China’s Gold Medals

On August 3, 2008, Hong Kong’s Open Magazine published an article
titled, “The Dark Plot behind China’s Gold Medals,” which revealed the
defects in China’s current sports system. The following is a
translation. [1]

On August 3, 2008, Hong Kong’s Open Magazine published an article titled, “The Dark Plot behind China’s Gold Medals,” which revealed the defects in China’s current sports system. The following is a translation. [1]

The Dark Plot behind China’s Gold Medals

Cai Yongmei    Open Magazine
August 3, 2008

Regarding the current Beijing Olympics, many people have guessed whether or not China will replace the U.S. as the world’s sports champion and be crowned as the winner of the most gold medals. Facing China’s push, the U.S. Olympics Committee executive director Seiler said that, the U.S. Olympic team has already been psychologically prepared to lose its lead position in gold medals during the Beijing Olympics.

Since joining the Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984, China’s trend in acquiring gold and silver medals has been swift and fierce, developing with an amazing speed. In the 2004 Athens Olympics, China jostled Russia over, claiming second in international sports. Receiving thirty-two gold medals, China was only four behind the thirty-six-gold-medal-winner, the United States, which was at the top of the list. However, this time, since China has the advantage of being the host country, the number of gold medals should advance, and it shouldn’t be surprising if it surpasses the U.S.

A Sports Official Openly Describes the “Whole Nation System”

China’s ability to leap forward in just twenty some years to become one of a few highly competitive athletic countries, and a controlling force in international Olympics, has depended on its special sporting system – the “whole nation system.” After the Athens Olympics, China’s State Physical Cultural Administration’s (SPCA) Deputy Director-General Cui Dalin frankly acknowledged, “If it weren’t for the ‘whole nation system,’ we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish such a magnificent achievement.”

The so-called “whole nation system,” according to a Chinese official’s explanation, “refers to the circumstance where the country’s synthesized strength is still relatively weak. Therefore, in order to make breakthroughs in a short amount of time, it adopts an organizational system that centralizes the manpower, physical resources and financial resources of the entire country.” Simply put, “the “whole nation system” mobilizes the entire society’s financial and physical resources to train a small number of elite athletes in order to capture the most number of medals and cups in large-scale international competitions. The system, because of the country’s absolute control and monopoly ability and its inexhaustible financial resources, can indeed transform it from one that may not correspond to the country’s national strength, to one in which people’s physical qualities and sporting level are at the summit of major international competition in a short amount of time.
This system was founded by the Soviets in the 50’s and later imitated by an overwhelming majority of communist, totalitarian countries. Flagship countries include the former Soviet Union, the former East Germany, the former Romania and so on. However, after the fall of communism in the former Soviet Union and the Eastern Block, China remained the only follower. Other countries such as Cuba and North Korea are too small to be worth mentioning.

The “whole nation system” values only Olympic gold metals. The country completely controls and monopolizes the sporting system. Therefore, it violates the universal free spirit of sports.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) acknowledges publicly that this system’s purpose, at its highest level, is precisely to bring about Olympic glory. If we make a comparison, it can be said that Chinese sports is a national act whereas western sports is a social act; in China, the government operates sports, whereas in the West, people take charge of sports; in China, it is elite athletic sports whereas in the West, it is popular fitness sports. Foreign Olympic committees are independent non-governmental organizations; however, the Chinese Olympic Committee and China’s highest bureaucracy that manages the sporting enterprise, The CCP Physical Cultural Administration, are two in one, or a two-labeled group.

In fact, many years ago, many domestic men of insight criticized this sports-spirit-killing system and demanded change. In broad summary, the “whole nation system” has the following defects:

Using Massive National Resources to Develop Athletic Sports

Firstly, there is a serious imbalance in the use of national resources. Every year billions of Yuan have been spent to train elite athletes and develop athletic sports, but sports, hobbies and the fitness needs of the general public have been seriously neglected and even ignored.

In 2004, the State Auditing Administration disclosed that the SPCA used the special Olympics fund to construct housing for SPCA staff members. When talking about its funds, the SPCA said that the Ministry of Finance directly allocated sports facility construction (sports schools nationwide and various provincial sports teams and facilities) the special fund and expenditures for national athletes and coaches in training for and competing in the Olympics and Asian Games and other such functions, directly to the SPCA. It was apparent that the country’s sport funds were only concentrated on national athletes whereas the populace has not benefited even a bit.

According to the U.S.’s Times Magazine, the SPCA annual budget used to be 428 million USD. In order to prepare for the Beijing Olympics, its annual budget increased to 714 million USD thereafter. The SPCA’s Sports Science Research Bureau chief disclosed that every gold medal won in international competition cost 7 million USD. Foreign media have estimated that the Beijing Olympics cost at least 40 billion USD.
Critics have pointed out that the SPCA’s funds are taxpayers’ money. Spending all of it on elite athletes results in a serious shortage of popular sports facilities. Many citizens who love sports but who are not included in the system feel powerless and frustrated. It is a waste of taxpayer resources.

Hundreds of Thousands of Athletes Have Become Sacrificial Victims

A second defect is that in mobilizing the manpower of the entire country, the large scale selection of young people with athletic talents, and carrying on enclosed training for the sole purpose of letting a small number of elite athletes compete for awards has sacrificed hundreds of thousands of young athletes and has even caused lifelong injuries in many athletes, destroying their lives.

In order to train gold medal contestants, China has been using the tactics of a sea of humans. From strict physical examination testing of elementary and middle school students, those with potential are selected and sent to sports schools in various places where they undergo enclosed training in social isolation. There are over 3,000 youth sports schools with almost 400,000 youths (the youngest of whom are only 7 or 8 years of age). The cream of the students are then selected from among these young athletes to be especially trained to participate in major national and international sports competitions.

Time Magazine recently paid a visit to three sports schools in Shan Dong Province: the Qingdao Sports School (one of the key sports schools where China trains Olympics contestants), the Weifang Sports School and the Luneng Pingpang School. It mentioned a 14-year-old countryside girl, Chen Yun. After testing for shoulder width, length of legs and waist size, she was considered to have potential and was chosen for weight-lifting training. Another youth was selected for archery because of his ability to focus, his shoulder width, and his good eyesight. All of them were chosen, even though they knew little about these sports before and had not expressed any interest. Those with quickness of speed and superb hand-eye coordination were sent to practice ping pong. Time Magazine also added that school slogans and propaganda posters all emphasized, “Win glory for the motherland.”

All three of these schools are dormitory schools. Students at the Luneng Ping Pong School can only get together with their parents two weeks every month. Students train for at least five to six hours a day, even including the evenings. Although the school told the Time Magazine reporter that students have academic classes the majority of the time, and that training was only after school, the reporter found, to her surprise, that there was not a single textbook in the school. A youth who was practicing running told the reporter that his daily life besides running was sleep.

The brutal fact is, other than very few elite of the elites, most of these young athletes won’t ever see a competition until the day they win for their country. Moreover, even for those who have won glory, but aren’t sports stars, their fate is possibly very pitiful. China’s Sports Newspaper reported that 80% of retired athletes had trouble making a living because of illiteracy and not having a single skill. Among them, many ended up with a body full of ailments due to excessive training; some, like the former national weight-lifting champion, Zou Chunlan, have even become paralyzed.
Weight-Lifting Champion Zou Chunlan’s Tragedy

The female Jilin Sports Team weight lifter, Zou Chunlan, was once a national champion, who received seven medals all together and had broken a world record. After retiring in 1993, because she only had a third-grade education, she could only go to the bathhouse to labor as a masseuse. Her life was full of disappointments. She was even more miserable because after joining the sports team at age sixteen, she was made to take “Dabuli,” a masculine hormone, once a day, every day for six years. The hormone in her body made her assume male characteristics. After marriage, she could not give birth. She had to retire because her entire body was damaged. Her muscles lost elasticity, so she couldn’t lift weights anymore. Zou Chunlan told reporters that many retired athletes have similar experiences. According to a report, 3,000 athletes retire in China every year.

Critics point out that the third defect in the whole nation system is the formation of a huge triangular special interest group consisting of sports stars, coaches and the sports bureaucrats. Gold medals bring the athletes and the coaches great fame and fortune. As a result, sports bureaucrats have successful official careers. Therefore the “whole nation system,” which resorts to all means to pursue gold medals, has also become a catalyst to the Chinese sports world’s corruption. In 2005 scandals about predetermined gold medals and fake matches rocked the 10th Chinese National Games. Public opinion clamored, and the sports world self-criticized. Most people believed that the cups-and-medal mania promoted by the “whole nation system” played a key role, resulting in a decline in sportsmanship in national competitions.

When examining the Chinese “whole nation system,” Chinese domestic media didn’t dare to touch the big scandals related to banned drugs. There is massive evidence that the rapid improvement of Chinese sports teams in the 80’s and 90’s, particularly for female athletes’ forward leap, was related to the scandal of banned drugs.

The Scandal of Female Chinese Athletes Taking Banned Drugs

During the 90’s, the Chinese women’s swim team dominated international sports, taking the world by surprise. In the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Chinese women won four gold, five silver and one bronze medal. In the 1994 World Swimming Championships in Rome, seven Chinese women unexpectedly captured twelve of the sixteen available gold metals and also broke several world records. The rapid rise was followed by a quick fall because no one believed the Chinese women swimmers depended on their own strength. In the ensuing 1994 Asian Games in Hiroshima, Chinese contestants revealed their true colors. Altogether eleven tested positive for banned drugs, and all their medals were revoked. Among them were world swimming champions Lu Bin and Yang Aihua. After China lost face, it also strengthened drug testing internally. Wu Yanyan, who once broke the women’s 2,000-meter individual mix swimming world record, also tested positive and couldn’t attend the Sydney Olympics. After the Hiroshima drug scandal, Chinese women swimmers’ accomplishments quickly declined to their original level. In the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, they won only one gold and one silver medal. In the Sydney Olympics, Chinese women swimmers didn’t win a single gold medal. In the Athens Olympics, the only women’s swimmer gold medalist, Luo XueJuan, acknowledged publicly that the Chinese swimming team wasn’t clean.
In the mid 90’s, the once renowned Ma Team (The Liaoning Province track and field team was named Ma Team after their trainer Ma Junren) suddenly produced a group of world-class medium-distance women runners. Many women won gold metals in many major world games. The most renowned, Wang Junxia, won the women’s 5,000-meter gold in the Atlanta Olympics. It was always said that Ma Junren made the women athletes take tonics.

In 2000, many world champions from this track and field team were not selected to represent China in the Sydney Olympics. Many rumors were spread related to athletes taking stimulants, but the CCP never gave a clear explanation. Yet Ma Jiajun continued to hold the post of deputy director of the Liaoning Province’s Physical Cultural Committee. Until his retirement in 2004, he was still responsible for the medium-distance running athletes’ training. By then, Ma Junren was already worth tens of millions. Today it is generally believed that the Ma Team’s athletic achievements increased because they used banned drugs.

Moreover, in the West, drug scandals usually reflect an individual athlete’s personal behavior, but in China, it is an official behavior in which the country’s sports bureaucracy has played a key role. Zou Chunlan disclosed that in the Jilin Sports Team, the coach made them take Dabuli, telling them that it was a nutritional supplement for body nourishment. After taking it, they grew body hair and even mustaches; their voices grew deeper. Only then did the coach tell them that it was a male hormone, but he said that it was harmless to the body. They were all very afraid, but very helpless. Only a small number of people secretly discarded the drugs. Zou Chunlan said that they stopped taking it a half-month before the competition. Then they were injected with a “cover-up agent” in order to hoodwink the drug tester.

After Zou Chunlan disclosed the banned drugs, Jilin Province’s Physical Culture Commission threatened her, saying that if she disclosed the inside story again, it would indicate that all her gold medals were fake.

China Employees Notorious East German Trainer

Starting in 1985, after the employment of the infamous East German sports doctor Rudolf, Chinese women swimmers improved by leaps and bounds. In the next year, the Chinese women’s swim team, in a born-again fashion, defeated Asia’s former swim champion, Japan, in international competitions.

It can be said that former East Germany serves as a model for China’s “whole nation system.” Before its collapse, East Germany, the U.S. and the former Soviet Union, were the top three great athletic nations in the world. In a period of twenty years, the Olympic medals it obtained was number three in the world, and was only inferior to the U.S. and the former Soviet Union. Its women’s swimming and track and field were most remarkable. Later Chinese women contestants also amazed the world by using banned drugs. After Germany reunified, this East German miracle was exposed. It turned out the gold medals were bolstered with banned drugs. East German authorities had made at least ten thousand athletes systematically take banned drugs for a long time, and had conducted systematic research and implementation on how to effectively hoodwink competition drug tests. Banned drugs made in East Germany shine brightly in Olympics, but have also caused more than 100 athletes’ sudden deaths and innumerable athletes’ lifelong disabilities. Many women athletes have displayed male characteristics and have lost the ability to give birth. After the reunification, athlete victims brought the East Germany sport minister and medical consultant, Manfred Ewald, to court and asked for compensation.
According to mainland Chinese reports, the magic weapon brought by this invited Dr. Rudolf  were precisely the same plateau training, the blood lactic acid examination, and the banned stimulants. After the unification of East and West Germany, several thousand East Germany trainers became unemployed. Some were cordially invited to China and became the secret weapon behind Chinese women swimmers’ explosive achievement, but they also brought the banned drug scandals to China. In the past ten years, twenty-seven Chinese women athletes were unable to pass drug tests. This number surpassed the total sum of all other nations combined.

Domestic Voices of Anti-Whole Nation System Surface

In fact, the SPCA still employees these infamous East German drug trainers. In February 2006, Shanghai’s DongfangLuzhou Training base, a key swim base to train for the Beijing Olympics was unveiled. Overseas people found that the German flume trainer, Helga Pfeiffer, was the infamous former East Germany swimming project banned-drug expert, director of the East Germany banned-drug research institution, 415 Research Group director, and East Germany’s swimming team head coach. She was known as the stimulant queen. In the East German secret police file, she was an important member of the central sports drug management program. After East and West Germany reunified, she was accused of using banned drugs that cruelly harmed young people’s bodies, but because she was overseas (possibly in China), she escaped from trial.

After the scandalous tenth National Games, some domestic dissenting voices surfaced. They criticized the current “whole nation system,” demanded that the trophy-focused “whole nation system” be abandoned, and advocated following the policies of other countries that put sports in the service of strengthening people’s health. But after China won the bid to host the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Chinese regime’s unrelenting goal became winning glory for the Olympics and struggling with the U.S. for the largest number of gold medals. This monstrous “whole nation system” was carried out with further intensity and with more national resources put into the bottomless pit of struggling for gold medals.

Time Magazine said that China’s gold medal strategy is to put the main investments in those sports that are easiest to win and with the most number of medals. For instance, weight lifting and fencing has ten gold metals, rowing has sixteen gold metals. Although these sports are very unpopular and have nothing to do with the Chinese populace’s interest in sports, the authorities invested numerous resources. Moreover, compared with the West, China has put more resources into women’s sports because women’s sports win more medals than men’s. In the Athens Olympics, Chinese women won 60% of the gold medals won by China.

After the 2002 Asian Games, China proposed a “119 project,” i.e. contending for the 119 (now 120) gold medals in the three major sports of track and field, swimming, and aquatics, and using it to represent to the world that China is a reputable, athletically powerful nation, and not just an opportunist that only monopolizes unpopular sports.
Can this grand scheme be realized? We’ll only know afterwards. However, learning from China’s “whole nation system” and from the former East Germany, a miracle should not be surprising, but its price and consequences will be difficult to calculate.

In the final analysis, China’s “whole nation system” that takes Olympic medals as its highest objective is nothing but an inheritance from Nazi Germany, the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. It uses sports achievements as a sharp weapon to strengthen the ruler’s ideology, to solidify people’s will, and to demonstrate China’s national strength to foreigners. During Mao Zedong’s time, this ideology was communism. In today’s China, it is nationalism. Although criticism resounds from all directions, suggesting that such a sports system cannot continue, the SPCA Deputy Director-General Cui Dalin said, “In my own opinion, I hope the ‘whole nation system’ will persist after the 2008 Olympics.”

[1] Open Magazine, August 3, 2008