I was just browsing some Olympics news sites and was surprised to find
something that I hadn't known about previously. Liu Guoliang tested
positive for epitestosterone after winning the world championships in
Eindhoven. Last Thursday he was cleared of suspicion when two more
random tests were done and it was concluded that his body could have
produced the unusually high level of epitestosterone. Although his
quotes were not extensive, they clearly revealed the anguish he
Liu stated that as he was alone driving in his car over the past several
months, tears often ran down his cheeks. And, after he went 0-2 in the
men's team event in Malaysia last February, he said that when Li Fulong
(the new CTTA president) consoled him by whispering in his ear, "I trust
you, I understand you," he was so oversome by emotion that he almost
burst into tears.
He said that he is very careful and that he couldn't believe it when he
first was told that he had tested positive. He does not even drink
bottled water unless he himself has cracked the seal. He couldn't bear
the pressure of people thinking that he had not won the title cleanly.
He said that he had even discussed with his brother the possibility of
retiring rather than defending his titles.
It is really sad to read about this. I can't imagine the lonely
struggle he had been facing -- the uncertainty he must have been
feeling, the heaviness in his heart, the betrayal he must have wondered
about -- after all, if he hadn't intentionally "doped up," and he tested
positive, someone must have done this to him. And now the conclusion is
that his body itself produced the higher-than-acceptable level of
There was a personal strangeness to this for me. Ever since I first met
him in Anaheim at our '94 US Open, we have always had friendly
exchanges, including at the '96 Olympics and at the Eindhoven world
championships. This time, in Malaysia, our paths crossed just once and
he looked at me with such a different expression -- far different from
the self confidence that he and Kong exuded in Atlanta when they said
that they were both prepared to win the entire event. At that moment in
Malaysia he just looked so spent and so disengaged. It was strange
because, as I said, we had always had pleasant interactions before. I
just turned away. But later I told some of my friends who had
previously translated for us. I was moved in a way that had bothered me
until I read this information. And now I see more clearly that it was
pain that had manifested itself in him.
So, while this is sad news, it's also good news. For those of you who
have never seen him or seen him play, he is a wonder. To me, he is the
epitome of a true champion -- his manner (somehow unassuming yet totally
confident), his fearlessness, his fighting spirit, his fitness, and some
hint of his reliance on a power greater than himself -- some hint of
humility. It's something to behold and to cherish.
I remember when I waited, what seems ironic now, for hours for him to
finally depart from the drug testing area after his '96 Olympics win so
that we could have a brief interview. There was no translation needed
for his response to my question, "How did you feel when the last point
was played?" And he let out a long deep sigh of relief, with his
shoulders noticeably dropping. "I was so glad it was all over," he
added. And that was a moment of joy. One can only imagine the
vindication, the even longer and louder sigh of relief, he must have
only just days ago uttered. And his words echo back to me: So glad to
have this all over.
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