The Steroids in the Tiananmen Square Restroom

There is a legal case that has got mainstream and new media and just about everybody fascinated and intrigued in China.  You want rule of law and you are upset that sometimes justice is not served to individual parties.  In this civil trial, the plaintiff, the defendant and the judge all seemed satisfied with the outcome.  So why do all observers believe that this outcome is a travesty of justice?

The background is based upon this Xici Hutong post:

[partial translation]

The incident is as follows: At the Tenth National Games, Sun Yingjie finished second in the women's 10,000m track race.  Afterwards, during the standard post-race drug test, her A-sample was found to be positive (more specifically, positive for androsterone, a steroid precursor of the male hormone testosterone).  The race organizers cancelled her 10,000 meter results and banned her from further participation at the games.

Yesterday, I saw the special feature on Dongfang Satellite TV (in Shanghai): "Today's topic: The Stimulant in the Restroom."  Then I found out that there was a new development in the Sun Yingjie doping case.  Recently, Sun Yingjie sued her teammate Yu Haiguang at the Wudalianchi court for defamation.

During the trial, Yu Haiguang admitted in court that some time ago, he was in a public restroom near Tienanmen Square.  There, he found a pack of medicine that was hanging in the restroom.  He thought that it was a health tonic and so he took some.  He had no idea that this was a stimulant.  Later on, he found that the medicine was very effective.  Then he found out that Sun Yingjie won the marathon championship that served as both the Beijing International Marathon as well as the Tenth National Games marathon race.  He heard that she was so tired that she had to sit on the ground afterwards . Since Yu adored Sun, he put the medicine that he found in the restroom into the fruit juice that Sun had drank half of and the coach was keeping for her.  When Sun came back, she drank the rest of the drink.  Unexpectedly, the medicine was a stimulant and that was why Sun's drug test turned out to be positive.

The Wudalianchi court heard the testimony of Yu Haijiang and determined that he defamed Sun Yingjie.  Accordingly, he must publish an apology in the national-level newspaper in order to restore her reputation, and he must also pay her 30,000 yuan for mental anguish as well as the legal fees.

Here is the analysis that lawyer Pu Zhiqiang wrote for Football magazine:

[in translation]

The wonders of being the best makes people take risks.  In competitions, "getting some good medicine" can raise one's athletic performance and that is nothing new.  But the Chinese people have done one better.  Swearing that one "took the medicine by mistake" while putting on a look of innocence is the "standard rule" for all risk-takers after being "caught,"  and Ben Johnson and Diego Maradona did that.  But this writer is perplexed by the fact that how come these people always have medicines that work well nearby and that is why they often "took it by mistake."  Yet this writer has never heard of anyone who ate ba dou (croton) "by mistake" and ended up having a massive attack of diarrhea during competition.

In a "victorious" ruling at Heilongjiang province's Wudalianchi court, this writer felt that he must have "taken the wrong medicine."  During the trial that took 31 days from the filing of the case to the verdict, Sun Yingjie and her coach conducted a "secret investigation."  With the huge help of Yu Haijiang's "confession," this court used a simple civil procedure to quickly investigate a criminal case of "poisoning" and then used civil law to find the male team runner guilty of "poisoning."  According to the law, Yu was guilty of defaming Sun.  No wonder when Sun Yingjie who had been embroiled in the steroid doping scandal said excitedly afterwards that she was finally shown to be "innocent."  She probably wanted to throw the verdict document on the top of the desks of the track and field association, but she may not be aware that the verdict does not effect until 15 days have passed.

If you beat a tennis champion in chess, this does not prove that you can beat the tennis champion in tennis.  Sun Yingjie won an incomprehensible lawsuit and then claimed that this proves that she is innocent.  But unless everybody "took the wrong mistake" just like her and the Wudalianchi court, this won't wash.

First, the story that both parties tell seems to be a joke to the people of China and the rest of the world.  The younger male teammate Yu Haijiang seemed to be so adoring as to be idiotic.  The process by which Sun "took the medicine by mistake" is very suspicious, and there are already many doubts in circulation now.  This writer read that Yu Haijiang "found" a packet of a "powerful health tonic" in a restroom near Tiananmen Square.  Now I am more than 40 years old, and I have used restrooms for several tens of thousands of times in my life.  I have never "found" anything.  Yu used the medicine on himself for several months and felt that it was effective.  That was why he waited until before the big race to slip in into her bottle because he was really distressed that Sun Yingjie whom he admired in unmatched fashion looked so tired after each race.  This caused Sun's post-race urine test to come out "positive."  The key was that the whole script was narrated by teammates Sun Yingjie and Yu Haijiang, but the Wudalianchi court accepted everything.

Second, a law enforcement agency is not a urine-testing organization and a civil court of law does not know how to analyze urine samples.  The Wudalianchi court has no idea what this is about, so how can they "evaluate" the urine of a world champion?  Besides, even the best urine-analysis organization can only determine if the urine sample is positive or negative, but they cannot establish whether Sun Yingjie took the medicine by mistake or who put it in there.

Law enforcement agencies are supposed to rely on facts.  When something fits in the evidentiary process of the court, as when the complainant and the defendant go along with the story, the court still cannot know the truth.  Since Sun Yingjie is suing for damages to her reputation, unless the Wudalianchi court also "took the wrong medicine," it should concern itself with whether Yu Haijiang libeled Sun or insulted her, and whether these deeds lowered her social standing.  It should not be concerned about the details about how the steroid was introduced.  Thus, a victory in a defamation case to restore the innocence in a "doping" case should not provide Sun any satisfaction on the most direct goal.

Third, the disaffection about Sun Yingjie by the public was due to the media reporting her doping case and the source of those reports was the fact that the urine test was positive.  None of these things are related to Yu Haijiang's act of doping.  Even if Yu Haijiang is really that little young man who put in the wrong medicine, he did not make up the fact that Sun Yingjie "took the wrong medicine," and he did not say anything that would insult Sun about "taking the wrong medicine."  Therefore, his action can only be said to damage Sun's physical health and not her reputation.  There is no causal relationship to Sun's sudden fall in social esteem.  He was only hoping that if his idol "took the wrong medicine," she would be able to sprint ahead and lead the pack.  As to whether Sun's act of taking the wrong medicine damaged the tenth national games and affected the "good reputation" of the country, the plaintiff should not be Sun Yingjie and the defendant should not be Yu Haijiang!  This writer noted that Yu "confessed" and lost the case and he was basically making no complaints.  Unfortunately, according to the current legal requirements, Sun Yingjie does not even have a case to file against Yu Haijiang for defamation.

Fourth, any joke becomes a farce if pushed too hard.  Sun Yingjie was glad to find an excuse for her "taking the wrong medicine."  Although no one would believe her, this is not anything unexpected -- look at how judo champion Sun Fuming entered the ring and was easily pushed over by an opponent.  She handed over the gold medal and helped the young competitor to preserve her energy.  Did not the coach say that encouraging young people is a good thing?  Sun Fuming is not Jan-Ove Waldner.  She would not think that she would in good enough shape to keep competing until she was past 40.  Why don't take a fall for some favors?  She could have proved herself by having a re-match in which she really lost.  But if Sun Fuming found a dupe to say that she was weakened because that person had put croton into her drink bottle, then the joke has gone too far.

Sun Yingjie was exposed for having "taken the wrong medicine."  She could have just muddied things up a bit and that would be it.  But if she wants to conduct a "secret investigation" in order to get someone else to be held responsible and then used an improper legal procedure to win a law suit, then this proved only that the law enforcement entities are poor in quality and even the Wudalianchi court is a disgrace.  Even though Sun Yingjie wanted to change her urine sample back to "negative," the result is quite the opposite.

As the Wudalianchi court was able to "break open" such a huge case, it will become widely known.  Even though the People's Court should be concerned about the needs of the people, there are still steps that it must follow.  This case does not meet the conditions to even have a case in court, and the decision should be to reject the complaint.  The problem is that once this absurd verdict has been rendered, if Yu Haijiang made up his mind not to appeal, the verdict will be effective in fifteen days' time.  So what happens to the law once they did this?

This case involves the "poisoning" act by Yu Haijiang, and Sun Yingjie is a person who draws the attention of the outside world.  There should not have been any possibility of using a simple process in this case, based upon the fine tradition of the People's Court of procrastinating in major cases.  Even if the simple procedure is used, unless the defendant cooperates fully, it would be impossible to wrap up the case in 30 days.  This writer has been involved in numerous defamation cases and every one of them went on for ages.

The question is that why is the Haijiang kid so courageous in confessing the private information that he took a "performance-enhancing substance" during training and then he would "cooperate" with Sun Yingjie and the Wudalianchi court.  There is no other explanation unless it is because he wants to allow Sun to gain glory for the country at the Olympic games.  This writer does not believe that the unfortunate Yu Haijiang and the unlucky Wudalianchi court all "took the wrong medicine" just like Sun Yingjie.  There must be secrets that outsiders are not privy to.

There is only one explanation -- that is, Sun Yingjie and her advisors planned this absurd "defamation lawsuit."  But the planners were clearly not very smart, or else they must also be "positive on the urine test."