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US Asks For News On China EPO Positive

Jan 28, 2013  - Craig Lord

The United States Aquatic Sports federation, the umbrella body for all FINA sports in the world's leading swim nation, is to ask for official clarification on the status of a positive EPO test, A and B samples, returned by Li Zhesi, a 16-year-old member of the Chinese national swim team until her case was filed on the eve of Olympic trials this year.

We raised the case of Li, a sprinter who raced for China at a home Olympic Games in Beijing at 13, last year after months of silence on the case after a positive test in March that made the public domain in June when Chinada, the national anti-doping agency, reported the case. No ban has been imposed and the case has yet to make it to the official case file of FINA, the international federation for aquatic sports.

A few weeks ago, FINA had still received no official word from China nor the Chinese Swimming Association. Under FINA rules, member federations are obliged to report doping cases "as soon as possible" after the return of a positive. Under DC 14 rules, member federations must report an adverse finding "within 14 days" both to FINA and WADA. Ten months have now gone by - but FINA has not yet been informed. 

The China Anti-Doping Agency (Chinada) reported the case to the Chinese Swimming Association, according to Chinese media reports. 

USAS has now penned a letter to FINA requesting information on the case of Li, we understand.

Six weeks before London 2012, the news was big in China and beyond, the line reaching international agencies and other media clear: Li Zhesi, world champion in a relay for China in 2009 at 14, has tested positive for erythropoeitin (EPO), the blood-booster. 

The case was announced by the China Anti-Doping Agency (Chinada), which cited "an out-of-competition test carried out on March 31". No suspension details accompanied the news but Li, a member of the China team for the past four years, did not race beyond the moment that her test result was reported far and wide. She simply stopped being a part of the China team and did not make it to London 2012.

Shang Xiutang, vice president of China Swimming Association, said at the time: "We've received the report of her doping test. And we will help the China Anti-Doping Agency do further investigation. But Li for sure will not take part in the Olympic Games. Whether she can compete in the National Games next year will depend on the final result of the investigation." 

"The drug was found both in the A and B samples," Chinada announced. A two-year suspension would be the minimum requirement under the WADA Code. 

The story can be accessed here. Sina, the agency, also reported the case.

Li led the China 4x100m freestyle at the Shanghai world championships in a 54.35, a time that would have left her second best Chinese in 2012 after the London Games.  

The passing of so many months without news of a clear filing of a positive test by Chinada, regardless of any appeal process which may be taking place domestically, is highly unusual.