News archive January-May 1998

Drugs scandal casts cloud over all swimmers (16/01/98) By KIEREN PERKINS

Perkins warns: I'm not done yet (20/01/98)

Kuala Lumpur or bust for Perkins (22/04/98)

Drugs scandal casts cloud over all swimmers


The Sydney Morning Herald 16/01/98

Swimming's image needs to be cleaned up. The thing that angers me the most is the public perception that all swimmers are cheats and that outstanding performances occur only when athletes take drugs.

It casts a cloud over every athlete who does something outstanding. That's so disappointing. The public's reaction is no longer: "Wow, what an amazing performance by an incredible athlete", but, "I wonder if that athlete was on drugs".

The public must now be questioning all the great performances in the pool in Perth.

That is why hard and swift penalties have to be brought against the Chinese. Their team must be suspended from international competition for two years. Any other action will be viewed by the world as a mere slap on the wrist or almost a subtle way of saying, "Pick up your act and don't get caught again".

It's not possible to suspend the Chinese from the Perth championships. There is not enough time to complete the investigations into the four positive drug tests and the human growth hormone seizure and go through any appeals process.

But once the investigations are complete, the whole team should be banned as per FINA's charter. A two-year ban will not affect the Chinese in the long term but it has to be done. It will not hit them where it hurts because there are no major meetings between now and the 2000 Olympics that would worry the Chinese.

The ban has to be brought down to show that FINA is serious and sticks by its rules.

The amount of hormone found in Yuan Yuan's bags was enough to bring swift sanctions. FINA has the power and the rules to impose a ban. That is what needs to be done.

If a ban leads to a boycott of the Sydney Olympics by the Chinese, too bad. It would be sad if this problem moved beyond swimming.

But the harsh reality is that if you asked the other swimmers at the world titles how they would feel if the Chinese swimming team boycotted the Sydney Olympics, few would be upset. I would not be upset.

This has got nothing to do with racism or jealousy. I personally have nothing against the Chinese. My wife is part-Chinese. But what is happening in China affects me greatly and that is why I am taking such a strong stand.

I am not surprised four members of the Chinese team tested positive. We all had our suspicions that they were on drugs. I felt that there was foul play involved and I am not a suspicious person.

I am surprised that they got caught, especially with HGH. They knew they were coming to a major competition and knew they were going to get tested. Maybe they did not think they would get tested or searched on arrival, that they would have a week or two to get the drugs out of their system.

China is a big country with a lot of athletes and a lot of swimmers. For them to have four or five swimmers banned is no big deal. They have a few thousand in the wings waiting to take their place. That's why the action taken by FINA so far is not a deterrent.

I applaud the banning of Yuan Yuan for four years and her coach, Zhou Zhewen, for 15 years over the HGH seizure. But itis naive to think that just one coach and one swimmer were involved.

That coach had five swimmers in the team and no coach I know would implement a program for just one. If he was giving HGH to one, he was giving it to them all. But it is difficult to ban people without proof.

I feel sorry for the swimmers involved. They would not have the funds or the know-how to implement a doping program. The money that would be needed would be beyond the means of the individuals.

We are talking about a communist country where people's rights are different to our experience. I shudder to think of the type of pressure the Chinese are under to win and break world records to make China a swimming superpower. I would suspect they have no choice. I feel sorry for them. It is so unfair.

Don't blame the athletes for what is happening. Blame the system.

Perkins: FINA must act to save our sport

Perkins warns: I'm not done yet




Kieren Perkins welcomed Grant Hackett to the exclusive sub-15-minute club yesterday but warned that the new 1500 metres world champion would have to go even faster to beat him.

The dual Olympic and 1994 world champion watched the 1500 final while lying in bed at his Brisbane home. He was impressed how Hackett led from the start to the final touch and commended the Gold Coast teenager for swimming the perfect race.

Perkins said Hackett needed to reach that sub-15-minute milestone to win a major race and, given his speed over the 400and 800,breaking that magic 15-minute barrier had been a matter of time.

But Perkins said that had he been in the race and at his peak, Hackett would not have been able to stay with him after 400 metres.

Hackett's swim also failed to strike any fear into Perkins' huge heart. It did, however, make Perkins even more determined to get back to full fitness after his post Atlanta Olympics lay-off and achieve his goal of winning gold at the 2000 Olympics.

"If I was fit and at my best I would have gone 14 minutes 41 seconds, Grant would have been holding on for the first 400 when I would have made a clean break and held it until the end of the race," Perkins said.

"I'm not cocky about it. I don't think Grant is never going to beat me. All it means is that I have to get back to my best. I have no doubt I will get back there well before the Sydney Olympics.

"I am looking forward to racing him on my terms. No one wants to race against a young guy who wants to knock you off when you are not ready for it.

"I have to get my bum down and my head up and make sure I am ready. Before this, I knew that I did not have to be at my best to win.

"That has changed now and that is good, because it motivates me to get back to my best and give these kids a run for their money."

Perkins enjoyed watching the 1500 and every race at a major championship for the first time since 1989. It was a novelty, not one he'd want to repeat, and he was amused that the race commentators referred to him in the past tense.

"They spoke about the Perkins era as if it was over," Perkins said. "That is a little premature. I am still around and I am coming back. If anything I am in a better position now I have someone like Grant to chase. When you can race someone and have someone to chase, you can reach another level and it gives you more motivation in training when you would prefer to be in bed asleep."

Perkins will contest the 200, 400 and 800 freestyle at the World Cup shortcourse meeting being held at Sydney's Homebush Aquatic Centre tomorrow and Thursday.

But he did not think he could beat Klim or Thorpe at the shortcourse (25-metre pool) event.

"I haven't swum shortcourse for a while. I don't think I'll be giving them too much trouble," he said.

"The two and the four will be the hardest. I did the Queensland state titles two weeks ago and I wasn't happy with my speed over the shorter distance. I'm not expecting great things. I'm not expecting to win because my speeds aren't there. I'll be giving it all I've got but you've got to be realistic about these things."

In a highlight of the World Cup meeting, Perkins will line up against Klim, Thorpe and 1988 Olympic gold medallist Duncan Armstrong, who is making a comeback aimed at the Sydney Olympics, in the 200 freestyle. Klim and Russian training partner Alexandre Popov will also be re-matched in the 100 freestyle. 

 Kuala Lumpur or bust for Perkins

The Age, 22/04/98


Swimming star Kieren Perkins is well aware that events of the next fortnight will impinge on his cherished dream of winning three consecutive Olympic gold medals.

A failure at the Commonwealth Games trials and national championships, starting in Melbourne on Monday, will not necessarily signal imminent retirement, but it will make Perkins' Olympic comeback so difficult as to be virtually impossible.

He said that his 1500-metre swim at the trials, scheduled for the last night, Saturday week, would be crucial to his Sydney Olympics prospects.

"If things went bad and I didn't qualify for the (Commonwealth Games) team, I wouldn't retire, but it would put a sizeable spanner in the works," Perkins said.

"You have got to swim the major competitions and if you lose that competitive fitness and edge, well, with two years to Sydney, you would be starting well behind the eight ball. I know it is vitally important for me to do well next week to get in the team."

Perkins, who won Olympic gold medals in the 1500 at Barcelona in 1992 and Atlanta in 1996, has dearly hoped for triple Olympic gold to stamp his mark as one of the truly great swimmers alongside Australia's legendary Dawn Fraser.

But signs that such a lofty ambition was unachievable emerged last year when Perkins failed to make the team for the Perth world championships in January.

While Queensland rookie Grant Hackett and the more experienced Daniel Kowalski were picking up gold and bronze medals at the world championships, Perkins was slugging out the kilometres in his Brisbane training pool, desperate to regain the form that deserted him so dramatically in 1997.

Perkins admitted he went into the world championship trials underdone and underprepared, given that his wife had given birth to his daughter only days earlier.

But now he says he is more than ready to take on Hackett and Kowalski and regain his No. 1 mantle.

"I'm definitely more motivated. I looked at Grant and Daniel in Perth and it caused me to train a lot harder and things picked up for me in training," Perkins said yesterday.

Perkins has entered for the 200 and 400 metres freestyle as well as the 1500 at the Commonwealth Games trials, where the first three placegetters are virtually assured of swimming in Kuala Lumpur in September, but he is treating the shorter events as competitive warm-ups.

"I am not freaking out about missing the (world) team and, in fact, not having the pressure there is positive," he said.

"My training has been tough . . . and I have worked very, very hard. I am actually looking forward to seeing what I can do."

"Leading up to my taper this month things were looking very positive. I was heading towards a 15-minute time, and if I got under 15 minutes, then that would be a bonus."

But Perkins, who holds the world record at 14:41.66, had his tough preparation disrupted by a virus last week.

"How it will impact, I don't know," Perkins said. "At this stage everything is up in the air and I am waiting for my speed to come back. I don't feel that strong in the water at the moment, but at this stage I am not too worried.

"I'll start to get worried if nothing has changed by next week, though."

Kieren's health did not improve, but he did, of course, qualify for the 1998 Commonwealth Games


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