China's Ma brushes off 'bat doping' claim

Germany's former world number one Timo Boll has claimed about 80 percent of international players are doctoring their bats' rubber surfaces to increase the acceleration of the ball, or "catapult effect".

Ma Long is one of the Chinese stars playing this week's Asian Olympic qualifiers in Hong Kong.   -  Reuters

China's world number one Ma Long has played down claims that top table tennis players are illegally doctoring their bats, saying all paddles are checked before matches.

The 27-year-old, one of the Chinese stars playing this week's Asian Olympic qualifiers in Hong Kong, dismissed the idea that players were "doping" their bats with special chemicals.

"I don't think this happens because before the start of each match there are umpires checking every bat," the reigning world champion told AFP through a translator.

Germany's former world number one Timo Boll has claimed about 80 percent of international players are doctoring their bats' rubber surfaces to increase the acceleration of the ball, or "catapult effect".

So-called "speed glue", which make the ball travel faster and spin more off the bat, was banned by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) in 2008.

"The rubbers are treated with chemicals to increase the catapult effect when hitting," Boll was quoted as saying by a German newspaper earlier this year. "This applies not only for the Chinese players, but for Europeans and other Asians too."

ITTF president Thomas Weikert has reportedly conceded it's hard to detect speed glue, as the testing process is costly and involves removing rubber from the bats.

"The fact is, at the moment, there is no testing method to detect (Boll's allegations)," he said last month, according to Singapore's Straits Times.

"An example of how difficult it is — you need a lot of money and of course the players have to tear off their rubber."

Ma, who wasn't selected for singles at the 2012 Olympics, beat London gold-medallist Zhang Jike on Thursday to reach the final of the qualifying event.

"It's obviously every athlete's dream to win an Olympic medal but I haven't had the chance to play yet," he said.