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Doping’s shadow causes hostilities in the pool

RIO DE JANEIRO — American teenager Lilly King celebrated stopping tainted Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova from getting an Olympic gold as doping hostilities worsened in the Rio Olympics’ swimming competition.

Doping’s shadow causes hostilities in the pool

US swimmer Lilly King (centre) celebrating her win in the women’s 100m breaststroke final. She said she had never considered congratulating her Russian opponent Yulia Efimova (right), who came in second. Photo: Getty Images

RIO DE JANEIRO — American teenager Lilly King celebrated stopping tainted Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova from getting an Olympic gold as doping hostilities worsened in the Rio Olympics’ swimming competition.

The 19-year-old King was joined by US legend Michael Phelps and other swimmers in calling for tougher action on the use of banned substances.

Efimova, who won an appeal at the world sports tribunal to get her place in Rio, and China’s Sun Yang, who won the 200m freestyle yesterday (Singapore time), were the main targets of the attacks.

Efimova, 24, was booed as she entered the pool area and was left in tears after being narrowly beaten by King in the women’s 100m breaststroke final.

“I think it just proved that you can compete clean and still come out on top,” King said of her win. She had criticised Efimova before the race. At the medal ceremony, King and team-mate Katie Melli, who had finished third, threw their arms around each other while Efimova stood aside awkwardly. King said she never considered congratulating Efimova.

The Russian broke down in tears as she came to face journalists.

“I once made a mistake and served my ban,” Efimova said, referring to a 16-month suspension incurred after testing positive for a banned steroid in 2014. She was given a provisional ban this year after testing positive for meldonium but that was overturned in May by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“The second time was not my mistake. I don’t know how to make people understand. If yogurt gets banned and you’re positive, is that your fault? For me it’s very hard to swim today, this is like three weeks of crazy.”

Following the Richard McLaren report for the World Anti-Doping Agency, Efimova was suspended again. The report implicated the Russian government in doping. But another appeal to the CAS last week let Efimova and six other Russian swimmers into Rio.

The US and other western countries had wanted a complete ban on Russian athletes. US competitors have been outspoken about their Russian rivals. Phelps, who will go for a record 20th gold medal this morning, backed King and said those punished for doping should not be allowed back in the sport.

“I think you’re going to see a lot of people speaking up more,” the all-time highest Olympic medal winner said. “I think she’s right, something needs to be done.”

Sun has already been at the centre of a verbal battle with Australia’s Mack Horton, who said he had no respect for “drug cheats” after beating Sun in the 400m freestyle final.

Sun, who was banned for three months in 2014, bounced back to win the men’s 200m freestyle title a day later, but then came under attack from French swimmer Camille Lacourt who came fifth in the 100m backstroke.

“Sun Yang, he pisses purple,” Lacourt told French radio. “When I see the 200m podium, I want to be sick. I am very sad when I see my sport getting like this. I have the impression I am watching athletics, with two or three doped in each final.”

The Sun-Horton dispute has turned into a social media war. China’s state-controlled Global Times newspaper called Australia a former British “offshore prison” because of Horton’s remarks about Sun. The International Olympic Committee has tried to ease tensions by saying the Olympics was about “respecting the right of others to compete”.

Swimming’s war of words overshadowed a day of competition which saw Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu claiming her second gold in as many events with a storming victory in the 100m backstroke. The “Iron Lady” was sixth at the turn with world champion Emily Seebohm leading but stormed home to win in 58.45s.

American Kathleen Baker was second in 58.75, just a whisker ahead of China’s Fu Yuanhui and Canadian Kylie Masse, who shared bronze in 58.76.

Ryan Murphy gave the US a second gold on the night, extending America’s run of dominance in the men’s 100m backstroke, coming from fourth at the turn to win in an Olympic record of 51.97 and become the sixth straight US Olympic champion, ahead of China’s Xu Jiayu (52.31). AFP

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