By now, you've probably heard the crazy, impossible, holy-shit-the-Olympics-really-are-cool news that 16-year-old Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen obliterated the women's 400-meter Individual Medley and, for 50 whole meters, even outpaced steely-eyed swimmer and recent gold medalist Ryan Lochte. The only problem with this story is that, according to rampant (and as yet unfounded) speculation, Shiwen might have been doping. How else, say critics in the swimming world, could she have possibly come from out of nowhere to set a world record?
Shiwen came from behind to beat U.S. swimmer Elizabeth Beisel, erasing Australian Stephanie Rice's world record win with a time of 4:28:43. (Since my approach to swimming is to regard every moment in the water as an emergency, this is especially impressive to me.) The really crazy part of Shiwen's swim, however, came during her last 100 meters (the freestyle portion of the program) — she went virtually stroke-for-stroke with Lochte, actually beating his time of 29.10 seconds in the final 50 meters with a time of 28.93.
That feat of unprecedented athleticism made Shiwen the hot topic of conversation among members of the U.S. Men's team. "We were all talking about that at dinner last night," Lochte said, no doubt winking mischievously as he tasted his gold medal for chocolate. "It was pretty impressive. And it was a female. She's fast. If she was there with me, I don't know, she might have beat me."
On Sunday morning, however, the glow of Shiwen's win had faded and new buzz about her performance was making the media rounds — Shiwen, who wasn't that big a force in international competition before this race, must be doping. Despite never having won an event in a long-distance course, she peaked in the 400 IM (an exceedingly difficult race) on the biggest stage in the world, and Shiwen had never won a medal in international competition before nabbing gold in the 200 IM a year ago. Moreover, China has had a history of doping scandals, most notably two embarrassing episodes in the 80s and 90s. Then again, everyone was doping back that (everyone except Rocky Balboa), and there's no evidence other than her conspicuously amazing performance to suggest that Shiwen was doping. For now, maybe we can stifle our cynicism long enough to enjoy the first really shocking narrative of the Olympics.