The plot is as horrifying as it is simple. One hundred of China’s most talented junior swimmers are gathered together for a test day in Beijing in late 2001 after the city won the right to stage the 2008 Games. Fifty are chosen to remain there with the national team under the “care and feeding” of national team coaches. They travel to international competition and are well-known to rivals and anti-doping agents.
The other 50 take a very different route: they leave Beijing in late 2001 and are not seen again until shortly before China welcomes the world in 2008, when those among the missing children who have survived and prospered reappear as the fastest shoal in the world, untested, both in international waters and by anti- doping agencies.