Lilly King has been very vocal about world champion Yulia Efimova’s inclusion in the Summer Olympics. While Efimova has twice tested positive for banned substances, she was given clearance to swim in the Olympics at the very last moment due to special circumstances. This has taken the rivalry to an all new level in swimming, and for the 19-year-old United States swimmer, some are starting to think Lilly King is a bully.
It has been no secret that the Russian Federation athletes should be under a microscope when it comes to international competition. The track and field team were completely banned from Rio. In fact, as the Daily Mail reported, there were rumblings that the entire Russian Olympic team could be banned as late as July 23.
Things came to a head in the pool on Monday during the women’s 100m breaststroke semifinal heats. Having already secured a spot in the finals, King watched as Efimova won her heat, putting the two on a collision course for gold the following evening. After her victory, Efimova raised her finger indicating number one. Lilly King was caught waggling her finger at the monitor poolside.
As broadcasts are apt to do, they smelled the story and pounced in an interview with King.
“Ya know, you’re shaking your finger number one and you’ve been caught for drug cheating. I’m just not a fan.”
With just one side of the story made public, King would become an American darling. She would deliver winning the 100 meter breaststroke gold medal. Efimova received the silver. As SB Nation reported, when asked if this was a statement, King continued the onslaught on the Russian.
“I hope I did [make a statement about doping]. We can still compete clean and do well at the Olympic Games, and that’s how it should be.”
In an interview with ESPN’s Mike and Mike, Lilly continued the negative comments against Efimova. She talked about the post race press conference, and how she didn’t care what Efimova had to say about why she tested positive. In the end, she said, “She basically wasn’t having any of it.”
The statement after winning the medal has some wondering what kind of a hero Lilly King is. Many have questioned her sportsmanship especially when it comes to singling an individual out. It seems to fly in the face of what the Olympics are to exemplify.
D’Arcy Maine of ESPNW talked about the issue of sportsmanship as it relates to this case.
“Efimova is a person, and not just a symbol of Russia’s perceived shattered system, and on Monday night, she won the country’s first-ever medal in the 100m breaststroke…Doesn’t such an accomplishment deserve a little bit of respect from her peers? Isn’t that what the Olympics are all about, after all?”
While media and fans in the United States put King up on the pedestal, not all athletes feel that Efimova and her teammates should be ostracized. United States sprinter Justin Gatlin, who himself has been suspended, offers a different view when speaking with the Associated Press.
“People want to label people and that’s all they want to do. They don’t want to get to know them, they don’t want to understand the story, in-depth.”
The in-depth part of Efimova’s story is as follows as reported in the Washington Post. Yulia grew up in war-torn Chechnya. Russian coaches saw the toll training was taking on her, and they sent her to America where she trains with Southern California coach Dave Salo. According to Efimova, the first banned substance was purchased over-the-counter at a local GNC. A language barrier was the cause.
The latest positive test was from melodium, a substance that had just been recently banned. Due to the fact that there have been no tests to determine how long the drug stays in the system, Efimova was allowed to swim at the Olympics. It should be noted there has been no indication that Efimova ever used the drug after it had been banned.
With all of the evidence presented and in keeping with the spirit of the games, it may be time to put these controversies to rest. What has been said can’t be taken back, but with more events between the two still to come, anymore negative comments could have some wonder if Lilly King is a bully.
[Photo via Clive Rose/Getty Images]