- Title: CHINA: Chinese athletes warned of positive drug tests from traditional medicines
- Date: 22nd August 2008
- Summary: (L!2) BEIJING, CHINA (AUGUST 19, 2008) (REUTERS) GLASS CASES CONTAINING JARS IN YUSHENGTANG MUSEUM OF TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) ZHANG QICHENG, TRADITIONAL MEDICINE SCHOLAR FROM PEKING UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "It's more about a balance throughout the whole of a person's body, and Chinese people pay great attention to this. So all the gold medals come from Chinese culture and Chinese people's way of life, their harmonious way of life. It's not about taking some medicine that contains stimulants, it really isn't." VARIOUS OF MAN EXPLAINING ACUPUNCTURE POINTS ON STATUE IN MUSEUM
- Embargoed: 6th September 2008 13:00
- Location: China
- Country: China
- Topics: Health
- Reuters ID: LVA9ZFDTMDFLC52TYEP18ZMW2ZV1
- Story Text: The oldest and biggest Chinese medicine store in Beijing is stocked with traditional ingredients like deer's penis, dried seahorses, fungi, and ginseng.
The doctors at the 339-year-old TongRenTang Pharmacy near Tiananmen Square issue prescriptions for each patient and mix the ingredients by hand.
But now they must also issue warnings to athletes over their products, which may contain natural stimulants that could yield a positive result on Olympic drug tests.
With millions of Chinese taking traditional medicines to keep themselves healthy and cure illnesses, the government embarked on a campaign ahead of the Olympics to ensure athletes were properly warned about off-limits drugs.
About 100 of the 1,200 natural ingredients used in traditional Chinese medicine are stimulants, according to specialists at the TongRenTang store.
From May 1, all vendors of these medicines were required to put up warnings and isolate any varieties that could contravene the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) list of prohibited drugs.
Dr. Guan Qing Wei, a traditional medicine practitioner from TongRenTang, explained how traditional Chinese medicine, dating back to 2,000 years ago, differs from the Western variety.
"Chinese medicine is like the virus protection software in a computer, it promotes the ability to protect oneself. So if there is any point that is weak where viruses or bacteria could invade and affect one's health, Chinese medicine strengthens your system so bacteria or viruses cannot harm you," Guan said.
The Chinese team's star basketball player, Yao Ming, who also plays for the Houston Rockets in the NBA, is a strong believer in traditional medicine.
He returned to China last spring to seek advice from traditional Chinese medicine experts for the recovery of an injured foot.
Chinese Olympic officials had advised athletes not to take traditional remedies during the August Games.
The IOC has banned several athletes for illegal elements found in seemingly innocuous over-the-counter medicine.
Guan said that because of the risks to athletes' careers, all medicines have been appropriately labelled.
"Traditional medicine can have very positive effects in curing illness, but can also result in a positive doping test result for athletes.
But now those Chinese medicines that could lead to a positive test result have a label on the main container to warn the athletes," Guan said.
Olympic sprinter Linford Christie once failed a drug test for having drunk tea with ginseng, which contains natural stimulants. He was later cleared.
According to traditional medicine, deer's antler and the penises of many different animals are thought to boost virility while sea slugs boiled or eaten whole can help blood circulation. Swallows nests is known to benefit lungs.
China has stormed to the top of the gold medal tally with a massive 43 golds in total by mid-day on Wednesday (August 20), leaving some to wonder if the health benefits of traditional medicine, on top of the country's Soviet-style sports system, could be a factor.
Dr. Zhang Qicheng, a traditional medicine scholar from Beijing's Peking University, said Chinese medicine could play a role but he attributes the country's superiority in sports more to a deep culture of wellness.
"It's more about a balance throughout the whole of a person's body, and Chinese people pay great attention to this. So all the gold medals come from Chinese culture and Chinese people's way of life, their harmonious way of life. It's not about taking some medicine that contains stimulants, it really isn't," said Zhang.
Traditional Chinese medicine aims to make the whole body run well, not just focusing on one area, and offers no single quick fix, experts from TongRenTang said.
Chinese medicine is becoming increasingly popular in the West, and non-Chinese athletes are also advised against the stimulants' possible effects on doping tests.
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