China has been accused of mass doping of 10,000 athletes in the 1980s and 1990s according to a former Chinese Olympic doctor, Xue Yinxian, who spoke to German TV. According to the doctor, athletes had to dope or had to leave the team. Table-tennis is one of the sports that is included in the mass doping accusation.
The doctor does not mention anything of today’s athletes but unfortunately, these accusations do not surprise me. It is known by many people in China table-tennis and the US table-tennis community that many of the Chinese athletes change their age as it’s very easy to get a new passport in China. If you’re 17 years old and 2700 in level, it’s not as good for your selection to a team as if you’re 14 years old and 2700. It’s a big concern for US table-tennis athletes and officials that many Chinese players with incorrect ages will aim to take spots on our national teams but there is no scientific method available to prove someone’s exact age or proof that someone is lying about their age. There are also many accusations of bribery for spots on teams but incorrect ages and bribery happen in other places like India too. Coaching during matches before it was allowed has happened a lot here in the US. Coaches instructing their students to change scores in their favor during matches, especially at critical moments, has also happened many times in the US. Unfortunately, many have a “win-at-all-cost” mentality.
I do not think doping in table-tennis would put someone in an advantage to win a match as table-tennis is so skill-based. However, I have trained in China 5 times for extended periods and going through the training to become a top player is extremely physically exhausting. There were times I would wonder how I would make it through the training and especially when in hot and humid conditions. I would not be surprised if doping in table-tennis allows an athlete to handle a larger volume of training. I’m not sure if China putting out statements that athletes do things for the “glory of the country” make sense, especially if these accusations are true. Two of the greatest women’s players of all-time, Wang Nan and Zhang Yining, both sounded regretful of their careers as one said she would not let her kid play table-tennis for China and another said she wishes she were an engineer. Both have many Olympic and World golds. If the most famous athletes in China feel this way, I wonder what the millions of aspiring Chinese table-tennis players that have trained their whole lives without participating in any important competition feel and what happens to them. They have no education to fall back on and I’m guessing their table-tennis career could end at any time with injury or not being selected to a team.