India’s Mirabai Chanu bagged a silver in the Women’s 49kg weightlifting category at Tokyo Olympics. She came second to China’s Zhihui Hou on July 24. Two days hence, ANI published a story claiming Hou will undergo an anti-doping test and Mirabai Chanu will be awarded the gold medal if Hou fails the test. “She has been asked to stay in Tokyo and the test will be done. The test is definitely happening,” ANI quoted a “source in the know of developments” in its report published at 1:18 pm on July 26.
Tokyo Olympics: Weightlifter Hou to be tested by anti-doping authorities, silver medallist Chanu stands chance to get medal upgrade
— ANI Digital (@ani_digital) July 26, 2021
Sports journalist Boria Majumdar tweeted about the alleged news – “There is a message in the Indian group in the village that says she is being tested and to watch out what happens.” This was at 12:40 pm, less than an hour before ANI’s report.
Why is the Chinese gold medal winning athlete who beat Chanu is being tested for dope 2 days later? There is a message in the Indian group in the village that says she is being tested and to watch out what happens. Members of the indian delegation not saying much! #TokyoOlympics
— Boria Majumdar (@BoriaMajumdar) July 26, 2021
He also wrote an article in India Today which said, “While it’s commonplace for Olympic medalists to undergo doping tests, Zhihui’s case involves adverse analytical finding, meaning there will be tests to figure out if there is anything adverse in the first sample.” Sports website The Bridge published an article referring to Majumdar’s tweet.
A plethora of other media organisations reported that Hou will undergo a second doping test – Newsroom Post, Dainik Jagran, ABP News, Aaj Tak, Hindustan, News18, Outlook, Loksatta, India TV and Asianet.
The first person who tweeted that Zhihui Hou will be tested by anti-doping authorities was American hedge fund manager Kyle Bassus at 8:39 am on July 26.
— 🇺🇸Kyle Bass🇺🇸 (@Jkylebass) July 26, 2021
The alleged news also reached Taiwanese media which said that Indonesia’s Windy Cantika Aisah, a Taiwanese indigenous athlete, could win bronze if Hou was found doping. “Olympic officials now suspect Hou of doping and are requiring her to stay in Japan to undergo an additional test for performance-enhancing substances,” reported taiwannews.com.
ANI clarifies story was erroneous
On July 30, ANI published another story stating, “Earlier, ANI had reported Zhihui Hou will be tested by anti-doping authorities and if she failed the test, then Chanu stands a chance to be awarded gold. But there has been no testing and it was an inadvertent error while reporting the news.”
Olympic news website Inside The Games published an article that same day debunking the news widespread in Indian media. “A “made-up” story involving weightlifters from China and India has been so widely reported throughout Asia that it has led to claims of athletes from three nations being involved in medal reallocations. The story appears to have emanated from Asian News International, which has 100 bureaus and labels itself “Asia’s premier news agency”,” wrote Inside The Games.
The outlet reported that both the World Anti-Doping Agency and the International Testing Agency (ITA) said they knew nothing about the claim. “We do not know where it started but we follow, as always, the strategy to transparently state any developments on our website,” said ITA.
Alt News cross-checked ITA’s website. There is no update on Zhihui Hou’s second anti-doping test.
Furthermore, Inside The Games also cited an official from the Chinese Weightlifting Association who described the Indian report as “made-up”.
While ANI has published a clarification report without taking down its earlier article, no other media outlet has acknowledged the error. The Economic Times reported in its Olympics updates from July 31 that Zhihui will not be taken for a doping test.