Michael Phelps Expresses Doubt On Effectiveness of Doping Protests At Worlds

In response to recent podium protests at the 2019 World Championships, 23-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps voiced his views on athletes protesting during medal ceremonies when the other medalists have doping convictions.

“I love how people are standing up and voicing their opinion,” Phelps said. “But at the end of the day, there’s only one person, only one group of people who can really change this. That’s FINA. When FINA wants to do something, wants to change how this sport is seen after all these positive drug tests that are occurring, after all this controversy, maybe they’ll do something about it. It’s in their hands, in their control,” reports AP News.

Phelps’ statements come in response to controversial podium protests by Australian Mack Horton and Great Britain’s Duncan Scott in response to the presence and participation of Chinese swimmer Sun Yang‘s at the 2019 FINA World Championships, which concluded Sunday in Gwangju, South Korea. On the first day of the meet, Horton didn’t even step onto the podium to receive his silver medal in the 400 freestyle, which was won by Sun. For his actions, FINA issued a ‘warning letter’ to Horton.

Days later, during the victory ceremony for the 200 freestyle, which Sun also won following the disqualification of Danas Rapsys of Lithuania, Scott stood on the podium to receive his bronze medal, but refused to shake hands or pose for pictures with Sun. As the two were leaving the podium, Sun confronted Scott, getting within inches of his face to tell the British swimmer something to the effect of “You lose, I win.” The confrontation earned them both warnings from FINA, and the organization made a statement on medal ceremony conduct in general. Sun and Rapsys, however, were seen behaving amiably on the pool deck following the 200 freestyle.

Sun was cleared to compete at the 2019 World Championships by an independent FINA anti-doping panel despite an appeal to the Court of Arbitration of Sport over a quarrel he had with anti-doping testing officials in which he is alleged to have instructed a bodyguard to smash a vial of his own blood. Refer to the following stories for more information on Sun’s blood vial controversy:

Though Phelps seems to support the outspokenness of swimmers who want to stand up to those known to have committed doping offenses, he acknowledges that in doing so, swimmers are also shifting their focus from their own goals.

“When your energy goes into that, it takes away from your swimming,” Phelps said. “I was very clear how frustrated I was that people chose to use performance-enhancing drugs instead of preparing themselves, putting in the work and putting in the training and doing what it takes to be a champion instead of taking the easy way out. But I wasn’t going to waste my time and my energy to focus on somebody else and what they were doing. That was out of my control.”

“I’m sure Shirley Babashoff didn’t want to stand up next to the East Germans to receive a silver medal,” said Phelps, paying homage to Babashoff who, at the 1976 Olympics, called out the notorious East Germans for their systematic doping.

“Nothing has changed from 40 years ago. That’s where I really, really struggle. FINA can do something about this, but they refuse to do something about this. That’s upsetting,” says Phelps.

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Protest leads to change. If the athletes don’t take a stand FINA won’t change, Michael.

Lane 8

Unfortunately, FINA will call that “inaquedate behavior” and might not listen.

Coach Mike 1952

“might” not? FINA’s conduct shows everything. With the same encrusted leadership continuing seemingly ad infinitum, does anyone realistically expect different results?


I agree, Michael wouldnt have been ask for a comment if their was not protest. Voices of the people that make the people in charge listen even if they dont want to. I say keep protesting

Ol' Longhorn

One could also imagine that if Phelps had done the protesting, FINA would’ve taken notice. His LeClos-shadow boxing-mean face would probably have been enough. Maybe tunnel vision is required to achieve that greatness, but he did have the honor of being team captain and carrying the flag in the opening ceremony.


Don’t really think he expressed doubt. He said he loved it and I think by his comments he supports peaceful protests — but he’s just stating the truth.

Until FINA decides to implement change, it won’t come. He’s not opposed to athletes doing what they’re doing or disapproving of it.

He just knows at the end of the day, the athletes don’t make the rules. The FINA board does.

13 % Chinese person

Let him speak for himself ..

Reading comprehension

Sun Yang fans can’t support a legal winner or read I guess…


He is alcoholic and loves marijuana. I am sure his records can be questionable as well.


Ah yes whenever a world record is broken I always question how much pot and beer was consumed to help the swimmer achieve such an athletic feat.


That just makes him even more remarkable. Way to not prove a point .


This comment is pretty questionable. And I’m being charitable

Steve Nolan

“Michael Phelps expresses doubts FINA will do anything, no matter what athletes do” seems a lot more accurate to me.

Which is still sorta wrong, if *enough* pressure is put on them – who knows how much that is, the shameful buggers – they might actually do something real about this.


Gotta be life bans for one offense. Nothing else will work. Have to make the risk great enough to not be worth it.

At the moment we may aswell just make it a free for all.


Well. I think it depends. Smoking dope is not in the same galaxy as anabolic steroids or EPO. But I do agree those who are using clearly performance enhancing drugs need to go.

Ol' Longhorn Biggest Fan

I agree Madisyn Cox, Ryan Lochte, Yuliya Yefimova, Vladimir Morozov, and Shayna Jack should all be banned for life. It would really scare away athletes for even considering doping knowing the career ending consequences


Lochte was no doping. Other tex is correct.


Was it ever verified that Cox was? I thought she ended up being cleared.

This is why, in journalism, we generally avoid using terms like “doping” and “PEDs” when referring to specific cases, – because it’s a very broad term that can mean a lot of things to different people. Was Lochte doping? Well, that depends. Was Cox doping? Well, that depends. “Doping” to many people has connotations of “intent” and “benefit.” To others, such as ISL, “doping” means ‘anything in violation of the anti-doping rules.’

Cox took a supplement that she was able to prove to the satisfaction of the panel had been tainted with a banned substance that was not listed on the label. I’ll leave it to you if you want to assign that the label “doping.”


I’ll do some more research. I think the thing is how can a supplement actually be tainted? Does that realistically happen? If anyone knows that this actually happens please let me know. Thanks for your response Braden.


In Cox’s case it was a multivitamin she had been taking since high school which had been tested previously. Not only was the whole bottle she was taking tainted but so were sealed unopened off the shelf ones from the same lot. It was a contaminated raw material that came into the manufacturing plant that was originally contaminated.


Ryan no doping.


Agree 100%.

College swimmer

I agree with this in theory but I do feel bad for Shayna Jack and people who unknowingly take tainted supplements or are exposed to it in some way. I know I would never risk my career on taking a banned substance, but I always worry because you never know what could be in a supplement, see Madisyn cox’s case: https://swimswam.com/madisyn-coxs-suspension-reduced-to-six-months-after-trimetazidine-detected-in-multivitamin/

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six.  At age 14 he began swimming club year-round and later with his high school team, making state all four years.  He was fortunate enough to draw the attention of Kalamazoo College where he went on to …

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