Magazine says sorry to swimmer over doping article
Updated: 2012-08-07 11:17
By Tan Yingzi in Washington (China Daily)
The prestigious scientific journal, Nature, has apologized to Ye Shiwen, the Chinese Olympic double gold medalist in swimming, following an "outraged response" by readers over a controversial article implying Ye's doping.
On Monday, in its Editor's Note following the story, the magazine admitted "the combination of errors discussed above and the absence of a more detailed discussion of the statistics" in a story written by Ewen Callaway, and explained that there was no intention to support the accusation against Ye.
"For that we apologize to our readers and to Ye Shiwen," it stated.
The note was co-authored by Tim Appenzeller, chief magazine editor of Nature, and Philip Campbell, editor-in-chief.
The 16-year-old swimmer broke the world record to win the women's 400m individual medley and then claimed a 200m medley title at the London Olympics, which sparked heated discussion about her remarkable performance among Western media.
John Leonard, the executive director of the American Swimming Coaches Association and the World Swimming Coaches Association, called Ye's swim "disturbing" and told London's Guardian newspaper it brought back "a lot of awful memories" of doping scandals at previous Olympics.
Though she had been passed as clean by the Word Anti-Doping Agency, on Aug 1, a day after the 200m individual medley race, Nature magazine published a story on its website titled Why great Olympic feats raise suspicions.
The author Callaway said that Ye's performance was "anomalous" and implied that her clean drug test during competition cannot rule out the possibility of doping.
He originally wrote: "Her time in the 400 IM was more than 7 seconds faster than her time in the same event at a major meet in July 2012", which should be July 2011 and was later corrected.
He said that "what really raised eyebrows was her showing in the last 50 metres, which she swam faster than US swimmer Ryan Lochte did when he won gold in the men's 400 IM".
Callaway also quoted Ross Tucker, an exercise physiologist at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, as saying "Everyone will pass at the Olympic games. Hardly anyone fails in competition testing."
Disappointed by the factual error and biased attitude, the online article immediately drew "an extraordinary level of outraged response" from its readers, most of whom are scientists, the Editor's Note stated.
Many readers criticized the author for "cherry-picking" the data in the comparison between Ye's and Lochte's last 50 meters.
Lai Jiang, from the Department of Chemistry at University of Pennsylvania, pointed out in the comment section that Lochte was 23:35 seconds faster than Ye overall and there were four male swimmers who swam faster than both Lochte and Ye in the final 50 meters.
On Aug 4, Rao Yi, professor of neurobiology at Peking University School of Life Sciences, wrote an open letter to Philip Campbell, editor-in-chief of Nature, hoping that Campbell could "set the record straight and publish opinions that balance the Callaway report".
Cheng Li, Chinese study expert at Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank, told China Daily that there was a mixed amount of "racism and jealousy" in the Western media's response to Ye's case, as many Americans and Europeans were feeling a threat from China.
"But the US media coverage is so unbalanced on this issue," he said.
"Those accusations are actually against Americans' principles, such as the benefit of the doubt.
"The apology from Nature is a very good thing."
(China Daily 08/07/2012 page1)