Asia's first sprint king Ning puts doping stain behind him

Fri Aug 7, 2015 3:44am EDT
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By Ian Ransom

(Reuters) - Ning Zetao's stunning 100 meters freestyle win at the world championships was an unexpected triumph for a swimmer determined to put a troubled past and the smear of a doping ban behind him.

The 22-year-old from China's heartland province of Henan became the first Asian swimmer to win the blue riband event, roaring home to edge Australian favorite Cameron McEvoy and clock an impressive 47.85 seconds in the Kazan pool.

"I didn't come here expecting any medal, not even dreamed of it," said Ning, who held his swimming cap aloft to show the red flag of China to the terraces.

"When I touched the wall I didn’t think I could come first so it was huge to see it on the board."

Ning's first world title came four years after he tested positive for clenbuterol, a stimulant that has put an array of high-profile athletes in hot water, including Tour de France-winning cyclist Alberto Contador and Mexican boxer Erik Morales.

Many caught with it in their systems have claimed to have unwittingly ingested it from eating contaminated meat from animals fed the chemical to keep them lean.

Then an up-and-coming teenager swimming for a provincial team affiliated with China's navy, Ning pleaded the same case but was banned for a year.

"(The team's) conditions weren't especially good. I would often eat instant noodles at night," he said in comments published by Chinese magazine Life Week ( last month.   Continued...

China's Ning Zetao celebrates after winning the men's 100m freestyle final at the Aquatics World Championships in Kazan, Russia, August 6, 2015.     REUTERS/Michael Dalder