The credibility of international athletics suffered another blow on Thursday night after Olympic champion Wang Junxia reportedly admitted in a letter to being part of state-sponsored doping in China in the mid-1990s.
The two-decade-old letter, signed by double world record holder Junxia and other members of the Chinese national team, alleged the Olympic coach Ma Junren had forced athletes to take banned substances and even administered some injections himself.
“It’s all true that Coach Ma had beaten, verbally abused and mistreated us for years,” said the letter sent to a journalist in March 1995 but only published by state media this week. “It’s also true that he had coaxed or forced us into using large quantities of banned drugs.
“His crimes must be revealed because we don’t want to see the same thing to happen to the next generation. Such inhumane tortures have brought us to the brink of a complete collapse.”
“Our feelings are sorry and complex when exposing his deeds,” detailed the document. “We are also worried that we would harm our country’s fame and reduce the worth of the gold medals we have worked very hard to get.”
The IAAF has since responded with a statement saying it only became aware of the letter when contacted by Chinese media outlets Tencent Sports and CCTV news, and would now take steps to verify if the letter was genuine.
The governing body added that any athlete admitting to using banned substances at some time prior to setting a world record would have their mark annulled.
The Chinese athletics federation nor Ma was available for comment when contacted by Euronews.
At the Stuttgart world championships in 1993, Ma’s team swept the medals in the 5,000 and won gold and silver in the 10,000 metres, while more than 66 domestic and world records were broken in that year.
Wang then went on to win gold at the 1996 Olympics in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres, where she took more than 42 seconds off the world record in the longer event.
She retired from the sport in 1997, having never tested positive to a doping test.
Ma has consistently denied wrongdoing, but after six of his athletes failed doping tests and was fired from the Olympic team in 2000, he claimed success was due to hard training and traditional remedies, such as turtle blood and caterpillar fungus.
Ma’s team was also deemed to be ineligible to compete at the Olympics in 2000, although seven members qualified, adding to speculation illegal methods were used to boost performance.
The release of the letter comes less than a month after UK athletics called for all world records to be frozen, and as the Russian athletics federation is banned indefinitely by the IAAF for state-sponsored doping.
The former head of the IAAF, Lamine Diack, is also under investigation by French authorities for corruption and money laundering, while three senior IAAF members were banned for life over allegations of blackmail and extortion earlier this year.