Mark Magnier: Flip Side to Fame in China

16681777.jpg From LA Times:

CHONGQING, China ” Tian Liang, 25, is handsome, tall and was, until recently, the pride of China. When he returned from the 2004 Athens Olympics with a gold medal for synchronized diving, his star appeal skyrocketed and advertisers banged on his door. Tian decided to take a breather, grab some endorsements and enjoy the payoff after endless hours in the pool.

Not so fast, said the government-controlled athletic association, which kicked him off the national team in January, denouncing him for taking part in unauthorized business activities, turning up late for training and tarnishing the sport’s image.

Advertisers wary of offending China’s overarching Communist Party quickly dropped his television spots for health food and stopped hiring him for celebrity appearances. News stories detailing his past glory were expunged from websites.

“He has failed to reflect on his errant behavior and conduct a ‘deep self-criticism,’ ” a swimming association official said.

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