Our program of August 4 included my conversation with Boston Globe writer John Powers, who was in London covering the Olympic Games.
An important story during the first week of the Games involved Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen, who won gold medals in the 200-meter individual medley and the 400-meter individual medley. John Leonard, the executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association, opined that Ye Shiwen’s performance was “not believable.”
I asked John Powers about that comment, and he said that given the fact that over two dozen Chinese swimmers had tested positive for performance-enhancing substances during the 1990s, suspicion was bound to fall on Ye Shiwen.
That conversation provoked a number of listeners to respond. One e-mail alleged that Leonard was a racist. Another accused Powers and me of being racist and went on to suggest that both John and I are “against women and other countries.” One listener said “all America” should learn to lose gracefully,” in part because “the U.S.A. is going downhill.”
In that conversation, we were trying to explore a controversy. We made it clear that Ye Shiwen had not tested positive for any banned substance. John Powers provided the conversation with a historical context. Neither John nor I suggested that Ye Shiwen was guilty of anything but provoking skepticism with her exceptional performances. As some listeners pointed out, she’s hardly unique in that respect.
Did we, as one listener seemed to suggest, “target a race group or nation?” I don’t think we did. If a swimmer or a runner or a jumper from any nation had provoked an official in his or her discipline to characterize his or her performance as “not believable,” we’d have asked John Powers about it.
Meanwhile, on our Facebook page, several readers responded to Karen Given’s pre-Olympics story about Kayla Harrison, who won a gold medal in judo at the Games. Before the competition, Richard Danca wrote: “The last thing the United States won was World War II. Stop the chauvinism.” After Harrison won, Mike Wilhide wrote, “Hey, Richard, wanna bet on who wins the World Series? Truly a great story, ‘Only A Game.’ Thank you for telling it.”