Yulia Efimova & Lilly King Take The "Cold War Politics" Argument To A New Level Outside The Pool
There is some heightened tension at the Rio Olympic pool. Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova accused Team USA's Lilly King of invoking Cold War politics for her finger wagging earlier this week. The two had been vying to win in the 100-meter breaststroke, but Efimova took the spotlight due to allegations of doping. She was only cleared to race in Rio only just before the race's Aug. 7 preliminary heats. King came out victorious, taking home the gold Monday, but the real story was before the race.
On Sunday, Efimova won her heat in the semi-final and put up a finger signaling number one. King then saw the video while preparing for her heat and she wagged her finger back and forth at the screen in disapproval of Efimova. If that doesn't tell you where things stood, listen to what King told reporters, according to The Guardian: "You wave your finger 'number one' and you've been caught drug cheating ... I'm not a fan."
Well, now we know what Efimova thinks, too. Speaking to reporters in Rio, Efimova told it like she sees it, The Guardian reported:
I understand the people who didn't congratulate me because the media was full of fake stories about me. But on the other hand I don't really understand the foreign competitors. All athletes should be above politics, but they just watch TV and believe everything they read. I always thought the cold war was long in the past. Why start it again, by using sport?
Efimova was suspended two months ago after testing positive for meldonium, a performance enhancing drug that enhances the flow of blood and oxygen through the body. That suspension was overturned because the International Swimming Federation received new advice from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Efimova says that she used meldonium before it was banned, although she had a prior, 16-month suspension from 2013 to 2015 after testing positive for a banned steroid. Efimova addressed her situation, too:
I once made mistakes and I was banned for 16 months. Second time it was not my fault. If WADA say tomorrow they are banning yogurt or animal protein or stuff that other people use and they ban this and you stop, [what happens next?] This comes out of your body for six months and if doping control come after two months and it is still in your body, is this your fault?
What Efimova thinks is in line with what much of the Russian public thinks about the doping allegations. The media and public officials there have denied the accusations of a government-endorsed doping ring wholeheartedly. That opinion has continued even though the head of the Russian anti-doping agency admitted to switching out samples at Sochi in 2014.
"The deliberate campaign targeting our athletes was characterized by so-called double standards," Putin said days before the game started. With that kind of view at the highest levels in Russia, it's no surprise that the public and even Efimova don't see eye-to-eye with King. Their next showdown better be in the pool, because these are fighting words.