Thursday, August 2, 2012

John Leonard Through Swimming History

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). 


  1. John Leonard is now claiming in-vitro genetic manipulation was done to Ye Shiwen 17 years ago, before the human genome was even mapped.

    On a related note, Monsanto just started working no modifying genes of a potato:

  2. Touché here, Chris. Well aimed wit that makes the point beautifully. A few of my thoughts on Leonard...

    1. Some on the blogosphere have been critical of USA swimming for not muzzling Leonard. Has anyone considered that maybe the reason he hasn't been muzzled is because he is the hatchet man? Maybe he is saying what the higher-ups at USA Swimming want to say but won't. Disappointing as that would be, I think it is plausible.

    2. Am I the only one who saw John Leonard on TV at the Trials? He was in the first row of box seats behind the starting blocks(no doubt on "official business" with ASCA) and was TAKING PICTURES/VIDEO. Don't we have a national policy against use of "cameras and recording devices" behind the blocks for reasons of decency? Why on earth would Leonard feel it was appropriate to be there and take pictures of the athletes like that, particularly given the criticism he has been subject to recently? Go back and look at the video and you will see him there at least 3 or 4 nights. Unbelievable gall.

    1. Saw this too.

      The only positive that can come from this - is THIS of all things what finally brings down the reign of John Leonard? Maybe the best coaches can now finally advance in the sport??

  3. might be funnier if Ye wasn't actually doping.

  4. Might be funnier if Janet Evans wasn't doping

  5. This might have been your best blog post ever...A true masterpiece!

  6. Has John Leonard said anything about Katie Ledecky smashing WR with a 14 second improvement?

    1. I think he said something like "If she were Chinese, you'd have really seen something."

  7. The Chinese care about their reputation far more intensely than we do.

    The Chinese have an anti-doping program that makes WADA and the USOC look careless.

    The Chinese left behind swimmers from their trials that would have possibly won gold because they might have also tested positive.

    China is more dedicated to avoiding a tainted reputation than we ever will be. In China, the Rick Curl situation would already have been resolved with far more than a tentative ban.

    On numbers alone China will soon outstrip us in swimming.

    By the next Olympics China's developmental program for both swimmers and coaches will be so far ahead of ours that we may never catch up.

    We will always have a few exceptional individuals, but as a sport USA Swimming lacks the will, the drive, the focus and the integrity to match China.

    Personally I think China might be warped but John Leonard is stupid and Chuck Wielgus & Co are evil. At least China has a purpose and seems set on accomplishing their goals by actually outperforming us from step one to the top step of the podium.

    We'll be making the apology John Leonard owes them while looking up and wearing silver.