Yulia Efimova: What Would Lilly King Say About Michael Phelps?

TOPSHOT - Russia's Yulia Efimova poses with her silver medal on the podium of the Women's 100m Breaststroke during the swimming event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 8, 2016.   / AFP / GABRIEL BOUYS        (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

Yulia Efimova: What Would Lilly King Say About Michael Phelps?

Olympics

Yulia Efimova: What Would Lilly King Say About Michael Phelps?

Earlier this week, American swimmer Lilly King did a Dikembe Mutombo finger wag through a television screen at Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova, beat her for the gold in the 100m breaststroke, and said that all athletes caught doping – including Americans – should be banned from the Olympics.

While King was speaking about everyone, the remarks were particularly pointed toward her rival Efimova, who was suspended for 16 months after testing positive for an anabolic steroid (which she claimed was contained in a supplement she bought at GNC) in 2013.

To King’s comments, Efimova responded: “Then what would she say about Michael Phelps?”

While initially this sounds like Efimova is accusing Phelps of doping, which would be a veritable bombshell, a Russian Swimming Federation spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that she was referring to Phelps’ suspensions that stemmed from being photographed with a bong, and his second DUI arrest.

This is not the best comparison to make. The reason PEDs are banned in sports is that they provide an unfair edge over opponents, and it then becomes a conundrum about whether having a better chance at winning and glory outweighs harmful longterm effects of the drugs.

Efimova also compared her mistakes – she also tested positive for meldonium earlier this year, but was allowed to compete in these games because the drug is newly banned by the WADA and could have still been in her system – to a misdemeanor.

“I am of course not for doping, and I have never done it on purpose,” Efimova continued. “But I know very many cases in which people do it out of not knowing or out of stupidity or out of naïveté.” […]

“There must always be another chance,” Efimova said at Thursday’snews conference. “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.”

Sally Jenkins had a good column in the Washington Post earlier this week contextualizing Efimova, and about how we should be careful about vilifying her in light of issues with our own athletes. These things are rarely as black and white as they seem on the surface.

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