Doping, The NCAA, And King’s Last Olympics: Everything From Pre-U.S. Trials Press Conference

Some time before the 2028 Olympics, two-time Olympic gold medalist and women’s 100-meter breaststroke world record holder Lilly King will be hanging up her goggles.

In a press conference prior to the 2024 U.S. Olympic trials, King confirmed that if she qualifies, the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympic Games will be her final Olympic games and she will not be sticking it out to potentially compete at the 2028 Los Angeles Games. However, she won’t retire after 2024, and she said her exact career timeline is still to be determined.

“I will be watching in Los Angeles and I’m good with that decision,” King said. “I will not be going another four years; I’ll be cheering on the team.”

LA 2028 was just one of the several subjects discussed at this press conference, with topics ranging from doping to the future of college sports being brought up by journalists. Below is a rundown of everything that came up among the media before the biggest U.S. meet in three years began.

Doping

Arguably the most prevalent subject was the revelation that 23 Chinese swimmers tested positive for banned drugs prior to the Tokyo Olympics, and recent reports that three of those swimmers (Qin Haiyang, Wang Shun, and Yang Junxuan) tested positive for a different performance-enhancing drug in prior years. King, as well as U.S. Olympic medalists Cody Miller and Elizabeth Beisel, expressed frustration with the situation on behalf of clean athletes who made time commitments to comply with anti-doping standards.

“The foundation of fair sport is having faith in your anti-doping agencies, and that has been shaken over the past few months,” Beisel said. “You have to feel for the athletes right now, especially heading into the games, with them questioning faith in the system that is supposed to protect them.”

“I think it’s just frustrating for all the athletes that do go through the process of dealing with USADA (the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency) on a regular basis,” Miller added. “I mean, they show up to my house when I’m trying to put my kids to bed and try to feed them dinner. And I have to stand in the restroom with a stranger and pee in a cup.”

1984 Olympic gold medalist and NBC commentator Rowdy Gaines said the current landscape of doping reminded him of 1976 when U.S. Olympian Shirley Babashoff was ridiculed for accusing members of the East German women’s swim team of doping — allegations that ended up being confirmed. However, he believes that most swimmers are clean and hopes that the upcoming Paris Olympics can be relatively unaffected by doping as well.

In addition, U.S. Olympic coaches Todd DeSorbo and Anthony Nesty emphasized that despite the controversy surrounding the issue, the main focus for USA Swimming was the upcoming trials.

“I don’t know if [the allegations] have impacted our athletes at all,” DeSorbo said when asked about the potential effect of recent doping news on American athletes. “They’re thinking about today, tomorrow, this meet, this competition, what’s happening here, focusing on themselves, and swimming fast this week.”

Swimming Landscape

Aside from doping, another subject not directly related to swimming loomed large — the future of Olympic sports, especially within NCAA swimming. This topic came up in light of the resolution of the House v. NCAA settlement, which allowed for revenue-sharing with student-athletes, potentially negatively impacting non-revenue sports like college swimming.

USA Swimming president Tim Hinchey said he was wary about the changing college sports scene but also hopeful that change could be made.

“I’m concerned. I think all of us in the Olympic movement are concerned,” Hinchey said. “The [college sports] landscape is changing in so many different ways… but I can tell you that we’re also interested in leaning in with the NCAA. We have made ourselves available to [NCAA president] Charlie [Baker] to say, ‘How can we help? How can we be a leader in this space? What can we be doing?'”

Hinchey said that members of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, an organization aiming to “develop, promote, and lead transformational change that prioritizes the education, health, safety, and success of college athletes,” will be present at trials later this week to discuss potential solutions to solve ongoing issues in college athletics as they relate to swimming. In addition, he credited college swimming as “the secret sauce” for developing American Olympians.

On a more specific note, Nesty, who is also the head coach for the University of Florida swimming team, credited competing in the SEC conference and the NCAA Championships for preparing his swimmers heading into trials.

“We’re pretty fortunate because we compete in the best conference. NCAAs is the fastest meet in the world; the meet that starts [Saturday] is also the fastest meet in the world,” Nesty said.

Beyond college swimming, Hinchey is also excited for the unprecedented scenario of hosting Olympic trials inside Lucas Oil Stadium. Although he did not explicitly confirm the number of tickets sold for the meet, he said that more advance tickets were sold for this trials meet than for the previous three trials meets in Omaha, Nebraska. However, it is worth noting that USA Swimming set a goal to have up to 30,000 attendees per session at the 2024 trials, whereas the average at the 2016 trials (the last pre-COVID-19 trials) was around 14,700 people.

Australia

While the U.S. Olympic trials have not yet started, the Australian Olympic trials are fully underway, with swimmers like Ariarne Titmus and Kaylee McKeown either breaking world records or posting world-leading times. King admits that she does check results of other countries’ meets, but she doesn’t let them affect her.

“I’m not super focused on the other countries,” King said when asked about the recent performances of the Australian women. “I look at results, but it’s not going to affect how I’m training or how other people are training. I keep up with what’s going on, but it’s not really affecting me that much.”

The subject of Australia was brought up specifically given the context that the U.S. finished second to Australia in the medal table rankings at the 2023 World Championships — its first time not winning the medal table at Worlds since 2001.

However, the U.S. coaching staff shared similar sentiments to King, emphasizing that the sole focus of Team USA was on themselves and that fast times from international swimmers wouldn’t have a negative impact on American swimmers.

“Every swimmer in the United States has been working for an entire year, so regardless of who’s swimming outside the U.S., it doesn’t really matter, right?” DeSorbo said. “Right now it’s focusing on themselves and getting through the gauntlet of the U.S. trials, and that’s what’s going to set us up to be really successful in Paris.”

“It’s not too worrying about what’s going on in the rest of the world right now… what will happen will happen. We’ll see pretty soon how fast we’ll be — what’s happening around the world, it’s just motivation for everybody.”

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Tommy
1 month ago

Is there an easy way to watch the trials from outside the US?

Sherry Smit
1 month ago

I get the feeling that this trials meet will be a last trials meet for a lot of swimmers.There’s a wave of swimmers 25-29 who stayed for the extra 3 years after the delayed games. Get the feeling that swimmers like Weitzeil, L. Smith, Smoliga, King will hang up the gogs after this meet

Last edited 1 month ago by Sherry Smit
Steve Nolan
1 month ago

Your totally write.

DK99
1 month ago

Was this press conference filmed?

Admin
Reply to  DK99
1 month ago

Yes we have video of it. Quality isn’t great but if people want to watch it we can post it.

4 kick pullout
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 month ago

Please!!!

DK99
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 month ago

I enjoyed watching all the press conferences from the 2021 Trials which were filmed really well, I think it allows you to get to know the swimmers more and their reasoning for decisions they make rather than letting us speculate with no real conclusion so the more the merrier

Oceanian
1 month ago

King said “I always check the SwimSwam live recaps for the Aussie meets. There have been some amazing swims at their trials but the Aussie fans who post on SwimSwam are even more amazing. So knowledgeable, so humorous, so handsome.”

lmao 😉

Genevieve Nnaji
Reply to  Oceanian
1 month ago

Awwwe….we cannot hate on Lilly

About Yanyan Li

Yanyan Li

Although Yanyan wasn't the greatest competitive swimmer, she learned more about the sport of swimming by being her high school swim team's manager for four years. She eventually ventured into the realm of writing and joined SwimSwam in January 2022, where she hopes to contribute to and learn more about …

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