Shattered mark raises new doubts

September 09, 1993|By Phil Hersh | Phil Hersh,Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO -- When Lynn Jennings heard about the new world record in the women's 10,000 meters yesterday, she was moved to tears.

They were tears of anger, disgust and frustration.

Jennings, the 1992 Olympic bronze medalist in the event, simply refused to believe that honest effort had allowed Wang Junxia of China to break the old record by 42 seconds.

Wang, 20, clocked 29 minutes, 31.78 seconds in China's seventh National Games yesterday in Beijing. That erased the mark of 31:13.74 set by Ingrid Kristensen of Norway in 1986.

It was the first time a Chinese woman has set a world record in track and field.

"Something is wrong, and it is tragic for the sport," said Jennings, 33, from her home in Newmarket, N.H. Then she broke into tears.

While Jennings did not specifically say the something wrong was performance-enhancing drugs or blood doping, both of which are banned in international sports, she made it clear that is what she was referring to.

"Here is a 20-year-old coming out of the blue," Jennings said. "It goes against everything in athletics -- you train to progress and get better. There is no progression with the Chinese. It doesn't make sense."

Wang's time yesterday was an incredible 2:58 better than her personal best before this season. It was also nearly 1:20 better than the meet record of 30:49.30 she set while winning the 10,000 at last month's World Track and Field Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. Jennings was fifth in that race.

"I believe those performances are out of scale," Jennings said. "I believe they are derived from something illicit."

Jennings was referring not only to Wang's record but all the performances of the Chinese women runners at the World Championships, where they swept the 3,000, ran 1-2 in the 10,000 and 1-4 in the 1,500. Before the world meet, no Chinese woman had ever won a world or Olympic running event.

The times and the ease with which they won raised suspicions of illegal methods that were voiced in newspapers around the world. Chinese officials countered by saying they have been committed to the worldwide battle against doping.

"The Chinese female athletes can withstand hardships better than the men," said Weng Qingzhang, an official of the Chinese Association of Sports Medicine, at an anti-doping conference this week in London.

Wang's performance yesterday is even more amazing when broken down. She ran the equivalent of back-to-back 14:45.30 times for 5,000 meters. Only three times has a woman run faster for a single 5,000.

As was the case in the World Championships, Wang finished yesterday's race with a sprint and then kept right on running for a victory lap.

"It is up to you to make yourself a star," Wang told the official Chinese news agency. She said her stardom came from "very, very hard" training, including running "the equivalent of a marathon [26 miles, 385 yards] every day" last winter.

Before Wang's time at the 1993 worlds, no woman had come within 43 seconds of Kristiansen's record.

"My sport has been tainted," Jennings said. "It saps the joy from it."

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