Doping controversies continue to cloud the Games


The road to Rio has been somewhat overshadowed by doping scandals. The Games might be well under way now, but controversies around doping are still dogging much of the action.

American swimmer Lilly King is the most recent athlete to voice her opinions against doping. After defeating Yulia Efimova in the Rio Games' most dramatic race so far, King then told both her Russian rival and US team-mate Justin Gatlin that neither should be at the Olympics.

American swimmer Lilly King
Lilly King celebrates her win (Mike Egerton/PA)

Efimova, who was loudly booed by the crowd before the race, broke down in tears while hugging her agent in front of the world's swimming media shortly after the race, and struggled to control her emotions throughout a fraught press conference over an hour later.

"Right now I'm really happy after all the stuff that has happened because I'm here racing," the 24-year-old said. "I did the best I could but I can't explain my feelings - perhaps you could swap places with me?"

Efimova, who completed a 16-month suspension for doping in early 2015, was only declared eligible for the Games on Saturday, having won an appeal against an International Olympic Committee ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport two days before.

Russia's Yulia Efimova with her silver medal.
Yulia Efimova and her silver medal (Mike Egerton/PA)

That ban was imposed a week after the publication of a report into Russia's state-run doping programme, with Efimova one of several Russians ruled out for their previous convictions.

Her case immediately attracted more attention than any involving her team-mates, as she had only just won an appeal to have a second positive test quashed as it was for the newly-banned drug meldonium, which appears to linger in the body far longer than the World Anti-Doping Agency initially believed.

King had already "stirred it up", in her own words, in the build-up to the race by wagging her finger at the "cheating" Russian and telling reporters she was "not a fan" but what followed in the post-race press conference was both staggering and refreshing in its bluntness.

Yulia Efimova competes in the Women's 100m breakstroke
Efimova competes in the 100m breaststroke (Mike Egerton/PA)

Asked why she did not congratulate Efimova on her silver medal - the Russian's best result in her seventh Olympic final - she said she did not think Efimova would have wanted to be congratulated by somebody who had been so critical of her.

"I stand by what I said yesterday but I respect the IOC's decision and I swam my race, like I planned it, and didn't let it affect me," she added.

When it was pointed out to her that sprinter Justin Gatlin had also failed two drugs tests during his career but would be going for gold for the United States on the track, King said she did not agree with that either.

"Do I believe that people who have been caught for doping offences should be on the team? No, they shouldn't," she said firmly.

American swimmer Lilly King
King and her gold medal (Martin Meissner/AP)

The jeers that have greeted Efimova's three swims so far have grown and she appears to be getting no support whatsoever from anybody outside the Russian camp, which is ironic for a swimmer who lives and trains in California.

When asked what she knew of Russia's doping crisis, Efimova probably made her situation even worse by suggesting the world was using sport to attack a "strong Russia". She swims again later this week in the 200 metres breaststroke and on paper has another strong chance of gold.

King is not the only athlete speaking out against doping. Australian swimmer Mack Horton, who won gold in the 400m freestyle on Sunday, accused his Chinese opponent Sun Yang of being a drug cheat in the post-race press conference. Horton said his win was "one for the good guys".

Australian swimmer Mack Horton
Mack Horton and his gold medal (Michael Sohn/AP)

Yang has been convicted of doping, serving a three-month ban in 2014 which many saw as too lenient after testing positive for trimetazidine.

Horton's criticisms have caused a social media storm from Yang's fans - unfortunately, much of their vitriol has been mistakenly directed towards IT worker Mark Horton from Watford.

Chinese swimmer Sun Yang
Chinese swimmer Sun Yang (Martin Meissner/AP)

French swimmer Camille Lacourt has also entered the fray, backing Horton's accusations against Yang. After the 100m backstroke final he told the French radio station RMCsport: "Sun Yang, he pisses purple".

"I am very sad when I see my sport getting like this," he said.

King also said she admired Horton's stance - "He was only saying what everybody was thinking".

It's unlikely that this will be the last we hear about doping for this year's Olympics.