Olympic medalist Yuliya Efimova will race at the Budapest and Indianapolis stops of the 2019 FINA Champions Series, Russian site RSport reported last week.
The Budapest leg, the second of the three-meet series, will take place on May 11-12; Indianapolis will take place May 31 – June 1. Efimova is evidently sitting out the first stop in Guangzhou, China, in April.
The Champions Series will be swum in long course with athletes participating on an invite-only basis and will include a team scoring format. It was announced in December amid FINA’s attempt to block the International Swim League, which has a similar format.
Notably, the ISL bans all swimmers who have ever been sanctioned for a doping violation, and thus, Efimova could not compete in that competition. She tested positive for DHEA in an out-of-competition drug test in October 2013 and was banned for 16 months. Additionally, she tested positive for meldonium six times in 2016, but was not given a suspension due to a lack of information about how long the drug stays in a person’s system. She was initially among the Russian Olympic qualifiers who were barred from the 2016 Rio Games, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport controversially overturned that ruling, allowing her to compete.
FINA sent invites to 45 male swimmers from 15 different countries, and to 37 female swimmers from 17 different countries, but we don’t know exactly who was invited. The list of invited swimmers includes “Rio 2016 Olympic medallists, Budapest 2017 World Championships’ medallists, World Record holders, and leaders of the 2018 FINA World Swimming Rankings,” FINA says.
Efimova was presumably invited to race the 50, 100, and 200 breast, as she took second, third, and first in those events, respectively, at the 2017 FINA World Championships. She was also the Rio silver medalist in both the 100 and 200.
The competition as a whole will lack distance events, with each meet including timed finals of just 50, 100, and 200m races in freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly, as well as a 400 free and a 200 IM. FINA will award nearly $4 million in prize money across the series, making it the richest swimming event in the organization’s history. It will also cover athletes’ travel costs and provide them with appearance money.
Efimova joins fellow Russians Vlad Morozov and Anton Chupkov among the athletes confirmed for the series. Outside of those three, only American Michael Andrew, who is currently suing FINA, has committed.