Questions Surround Hurdler’s Olympic Withdrawal

By Shi Yu
Shi Yu
Shi Yu
August 25, 2008 Updated: October 1, 2015
Questions about Liu Xiang's withdrawal from the men's 100m hurdles center around his reaction, the reaction from his coach, national sporting body's and the Chinese regime.  (Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images)
Questions about Liu Xiang's withdrawal from the men's 100m hurdles center around his reaction, the reaction from his coach, national sporting body's and the Chinese regime. (Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images)

Although the Chinese regime has ordered the nation's media to give a unified explanation of Liu Xiang’s exit from the 110 meter hurdle competition, speculation and evidence available on the Internet continues to point to an explanation more controversial than a simple foot injury.

Commentators are now alleging Liu's last-minute exit from the race was a ploy devised by Liu, together with his coach, Beijing Olympic Committee members, state media and high-level government officials.

The purpose? To lessen the fallout from Liu's Olympic failure.

The regime’s reaction to Liu’s withdrawal was swift. Xi Jinping, vice chairman of China, immediately told the National Bureau of Sports to pass on the word to Liu and his coach, Sun Haipang, that everyone understood his withdrawal.

Also, when Liu left the stadium on August 18, there were no Chinese Communist Party leaders watching the competition at the site.

Cao Changqing, a political commentator based in the US who writes for the Taipei Times, questions why Liu quit at the scene of the race rather than beforehand.

In an article called “Eight doubts about Liu Xiang,” Cao says evidence that Liu had already decided he could not race can be seen in the way he tore his race number off his leg after a false start sent the runners back to the blocks.

“After the start, before Liu ran for even 10 meters, he turned around and tore off the number… However, he did it without any hesitation," wrote Cao, who researched journalism at the East Asia Institute of Columbia University and has also been a political commentator for Radio Free Asia.

"Besides fulfilling his dream, he is shouldering the responsibility of glorifying the nation and fulfilling the expectations of 1.3 billion people. Deciding not to race may even run the risk of being against the will of the Party and the country. Therefore, if this decision was made at the site by Liu himself because of his injury, he would be quite hesitant."

Footage of the incident shows Liu almost casually tearing off the number in what looked like quiet resignation to his inability to race.   

Cao also questioned the lack of response from Liu's coaching staff, none of whom rushed to Liu’s side as he exited from the stadium.

"This only shows that the coaches, like Liu, knew what would happen ahead of time," wrote Cao.

Liu's apparent indifference to his inability to compete was also a source of doubt for Cao.

"For this match, he had prepared for four years. All the effort and waiting would be in vain. How could he remain calm?"

In addition, Cao questioned how Liu seemed to have no trouble walking but had difficulty running, finding it odd the athlete would be inflicted with great pain and limping one moment and then walking normally the next.

"When Liu briskly walked out of the stadium, he did not display any sign of injury until he reached a wall when he started to limp and sat down."
Another suspicious element was that Liu kicked a wall three times with the so-called injured foot before the race.

"If his foot was injured so badly that he had to quit, how come only a few minutes before the race he used the same foot to kick the wall so forcibly?" (see YouTube footage, also embedded below.)


The rapidly-convened press conference to discuss Liu's withdrawal was also questioned by Cao.

“From the time the run started to the press release that attracted over 500 reporters, it only took less than 20 minutes… This was done with a rare efficiency, which also leads one to believe that this was planned ahead of time,” he wrote.  

Another commentator, Si Matai, said the last-second withdrawal was a well-planned hoax to minimize the impact on the political and economic benefits caused by Liu’s loss of the gold.

Shi Yu