The besieged Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova defended herself against attacks from American Lilly King and others who said her previous suspension for banned substances should keep her out of any Olympics.
Her tactics were extraordinary: she decided to lash out at the most decorated Olympian of all time.
“What would [King] say about Michael Phelps,” she said in a press conference Thursday night.
A Russian press official later told the Wall Street Journal that this was a reference to Phelps being photographed in 2009 holding a marijuana pipe. USA Swimming suspended Phelps after the photo surfaced.
Efimova made her remarks in Russian after winning the silver medal in the 200m breaststroke. It was her second medal of the Olympics. Earlier in the week, she won another silver, losing to King in the 100m breaststroke.
“I myself am, of course, against doping,” Efimova said at her press conference. “I never used it on purpose but I know there have been very many occasions where people do it because they don’t know or because they’re stupid or naive. There always should be another chance … when you are driving your car and you break down you get a ticket you don’t lose your license for life or get put in jail.”
Earlier in the night, Efimova was criticized by Great Britain’s Chloe Tutton who had finished fourth in the 200m, essentially losing a medal to someone who has been suspended twice for banned substances.
“You know being fourth is a little gutty but I would like it to be completely clean,” Tutton said.
When pressed by reporters whether she thought, like King, that Efimova should not be in the Olympics because of her past positive tests for a steroid in 2013 and meldonium last winter, Tutton hesitated for a moment.
“Touchy subject,” she said before adding: “I can’t help who is here. I’m not happy with it but that’s what it is. People have to get on with it.”
Efimova has said she took the steroid by mistake and stopped using meldonium before it was banned at the start of this year. She has claimed she had traces of the drug in her system from previous use. The International Swimming Federation pulled her ban before the Olympics after the World Anti-doping Agency reviewed her case and gave their approval. That hasn’t stopped other swimmers like King and Tutton from directing their anger towards her.
This article was written by Les Carpenter in Rio de Janeiro, for theguardian.com on Friday 12th August 2016 05.26 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010