Qu Yunxia of China set a world record in the women's 1,500 meters of 3 minutes 50.46 seconds on Saturday at China's National Games, and later Coach Ma Zunren attacked critics who suggest the astounding success of his national Chinese women's team is due to drugs. Actually, he said, it's Chinese caterpillar fungus.
And, he said, the world hasn't seen anything, yet.
"Now that we're strong, they say we did it through drugs," Ma said at a news conference. "They're the ones on drugs."
Then he held up a light-brown box and said, to laughter and the excited clicking of cameras, that the key to their success is a health tonic made from caterpillar fungus.
Qu, 21, the world champion in the 3,000 meters, broke the previous 1,500 record of 3:52.47, set by Tatanya Kazankina of the former Soviet Union on Aug. 13, 1980 in Zurich, Switzerland. China's Wang Junxia, who on Wednesday set a 10,000-meter world record of 29:31.78, 42 seconds faster then the old one, came in second in the 1,500 in 3:51.92, also beating the old record.
Both Qu and Wang swore that they had never taken any performance-enhancing drugs.
"This kind of talk makes me really angry," the 20-year-old Wang said.
Ma predicted that either Wang, Qu or a third Chinese woman, Liu Dong, the 1,500-meter world champion, would break another world record Monday in the 3,000 meters at China's seventh National Games.
He said he had planned for them to set world records at the World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, last month, but the runners were not performing at peak because of health problems. Wang, for instance, ran a high fever for five days.
Ma said the women have not yet reached their peak and predicted even faster times in the next few years.
"Some people say I've broken too may records. I say, it's still too few," said the 50-year-old coach, who has been training runners from the northeastern province of Liaoning since 1989.
Ma refused to divulge the secret to his training, saying he planned to get it patented.
However, he said Wang's strength is that she is clearheaded in competition.
Wang's time for the 10,000 meters Wednesday, particularly for the final 5,000 meters, has raised speculation that she ran only 24 laps rather than the required 25.
But a spokesman for the National Games, who gave only his surname, Qi, dismissed the possibility that Wang was one lap short.
"That's impossible. There were a lot of people watching," he said.