18 November 2018
Sun Yan (left) celebrates his victory in the 200-meter freestye. Michael Phelps (right) flashes his purple dots. Photos: Xinhua, Reuters
Sun Yan (left) celebrates his victory in the 200-meter freestye. Michael Phelps (right) flashes his purple dots. Photos: Xinhua, Reuters

Olympic colors: Purple urine, purple dots

Swimming is one of a few sports where participants cannot talk during a competition.

That’s perhaps why swimmers have a lot to say afterwards.

Chinese swimmer Sun Yang is on the receiving end of such talk in the Rio Olympics after winning gold in the 200-meter freestyle and silver in the 400-meter freestyle.

French swimmer Camille Lacourte wasted no time calling out Sun for “pissing purple”, code for a positive urine test.

But there’s more.

“I do not like being on the podium with him,” Lacourte said. “It displeases me to be beaten by a Chinese. When I look at the podium, I want to be sick.”

Australian swimmer Mack Horton had similarly choice words for Sun, calling him a “drug cheat” for failing to disclose a  three-month ban in 2014 after testing positive for a banned substance.

The Chinese media struck back at Horton, accusing him of being unusually hostile to Sun.

Sun responded by declaring himself king of the race, no matter what others say, triggering a barrage of criticism from some international reporters turned off by his arrogance.

Now compare him with the unassuming Fu Yuanhui, who has become something of a comic relief by making faces in front of the camera as a way to remove pressure.

Fu won the bronze medal in a backstroke event but she has been drawing more hits on Chinese social media than Sun.

Interestingly, while some Olympians have a problem with their mainland rivals, they are embracing a Chinese secret — traditional Chinese medicine.

The media has been playing up “cupping”, a technique using suction cups to draw more oxygen into the bloodstream.

A few minutes of cupping causes the capillaries under the skin to rupture and bring relief.

When finished, it leaves purple dots on the skin, the most famous being that of 21-time (and counting) Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps who raised its profile when his dots were flashed on television worldwide.

Phelps said he had asked for a little cupping because he was sore but the trainer “hit me pretty hard and left a couple of bruises.”

He won gold with purple dots in his back.

The Russians, of course, have a way to improve their performance. Their government simply plies them with illegal drugs.

Will Chinese medicine be scrutinized by Olympic drug czars now that it has overshadowed doping?

– Contact us at [email protected]


EJ Insight writer

EJI Weekly Newsletter

Please click here to unsubscribe