With John Leonard doubling down on his comments regarding Ye Shiwen in the last twenty four hours, we decided to go through our swimming archives, to chronicle Leonard's reactions through some of the most dramatic events in swimming history. Enjoy!
1. August 13th, 1981. Mary T. Meagher sets the 200 Fly world record in 2:05.96. In a period of just two years, the 16 year old swimmer has become the first woman in the world to go 2:08, 2:07, 2:06 and now 2:05, cutting nearly four seconds off the world record at that time.
Reached for comment after the race, Leonard said "The one thing I will say is that history in our sport will tell you that every time we see something, and I will put quotation marks around this, 'unbelievable’, history shows us that it turns out later on there was doping involved". Despite the fact that Meagher never tests positive for any banned substance, Leonard maintains a very public suspicion.
2. September 22nd, 1988. Janet Evans shatters her own world record in the 400 free, Becoming the first woman to clear 4:05 and 4:04. Despite the fact that she is much smaller in stature than her competitors and fare less disciplined in her stroke technique, Evans blows by her two East german rivals.
An irate Leonard spoke with the press afterwards. Calling her final 100 meters (clocked at 1;00.45) "disturbing", he added "To swim three other splits at the rate that she did, which was quite ordinary for elite competition, and then unleash a historic anomaly, it is just not right. I have heard commentators saying 'well she is 17, and at that age amazing things happen’. Well yes, but not that amazing, I am sorry".
3. July 28th, 2012. Lost in the the coverage of Leonard's comments on Shiwen were the ones he made on swimmer Dana Vollmer, who rocked the swimming world with her 55.98 world record in the 100 fly on the second night of the competition. Despite having a decent, but modest internationally, lifetime best of 58.35 in the event at the time of the previous Olympiad, Vollmer improved nearly 2.5 seconds in the span of four years over a time achieved in a "shiny suit".
Incredulous, Leonard said only "It's an anomaly...and it's the only anomaly of the week". When it was pointed out to Leonard that his statements after the 400 IM directly contradicted that assertion, he quickly dispatched spokesman Bert Le Clos to answer all further questions on the matter. Le Clos would only repeat part of Leonard's comments, saying over and over again "unbelievable!" and then adding the curious non sequitur "he's the most down to earth, beautiful boy you ever meet in your life".
(Ed. Note: The above quotes may not be exactly what John Leonard said during those swims).