In a continuation of the controversy surrounding doping at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Russia’s Yuliya Efimova has called out Team USA’s Michael Phelps. When asked about Lilly King‘s comments in the lead up to a heated 100 breast final, Efimova responded, “Then what would she say about Michael Phelps?”
A spokesperson for Efimova has explained that she was referring to Phelps’ past suspensions for substance related issues. In 2009, Phelps was suspended for 3 months after a photo of him smoking weed from a bong circulated throughout the media. In 2014, Phelps was suspended for six months and removed from the 2015 U.S. World Championship Team after being arrested for his 2nd DUI. His first DUI came in 2004 when he was 19 years old.
Marijuana is a banned substance, and alcohol is a banned substance in-competition. The first ever disqualification for doping at an Olympics was for alcohol. At the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, Swedish pentathlete Hans-Gunnar Lilijenwall caused the disqulification of the Swedish team after failing a doping test because he reportedly drank two beers to calm his nerves before the pistol shooting event. The Swedes had initially won bronze, but were forced to return their medals.
While the substances are banned in-competition, all 3 of Phelps’ offenses occurred out of competition.
This echoes the rhetoric we’ve been seeing, as people bring up Phelps and Marijuana, and Australians and Stilnox, to defend Efimova and China’s Sun Yang when they’ve been called out by other athletes in Rio for their past doping violations.
While Efimova has raised questions this year after having a positive doping test for the 2nd time in her career, she’s asserted that she does not support doping, and has never taken a banned substance on purpose.
“There must always be another chance. When you drive a car and break a rule, you just get a ticket. You don’t lose your license for life or get put in jail.”
In Rio, Efimova has faced boos from the crowd and intense emotions as a result of the controversy, and has discussed the impact it has had on her at the Games. Efimova took silver in both breaststroke races in Rio, placing 2nd behind USA’s Lilly King in the 100, and 2nd behind Japan’s Rie Kaneto in the 200.
“There are a lot of emotions. I was standing on the podium and of course I wanted the gold like any ordinary athlete, especially at the Olympics. I was so close. But I was very happy about today’s medal, like the previous medal, because looking back at this time and what was happening to me, it’s a big accomplishment and I’m happy with myself in this situation.”
Efimova will complete her Olympic schedule as part of Russia’s 4×100 medley relay, where she’ll be swimming the breaststroke leg for the team this morning. Also on the relay are Anastasiia Fesikova (back), Svetlana Chimrova (fly), and Veronika Popova (free).