Americans hail King win as victory for clean swimming

American swimmers hailed teenager Lilly King's win in the 100-metre breaststroke final on Monday as a victory for clean sport at the Olympic Games.

King swam an Olympic record of 1 minute 4.93 seconds, which would have been praiseworthy even before the identity of her vanquished opponent was taken into account.

Russia's twice-banned world champion Yulia Efimova could be considered something of a pantomime villain at the Rio Games if the issue at hand was not so serious.

Loudly booed before starting the race, she was finally cheered a little when she stepped onto the podium to collect her silver medal. By this point, her detractors seemed to have decided that lukewarm approval rather than further hissing was best.

"It just proves that you can compete clean and still come out on top with all the work you put in," an ecstatic King said. "There is a way to become the best and do it the right way."

American bronze medallist Katie Meili added: "Swimming is so special that I hope the powers-that-be are working hard to keep the integrity of the sport."

King had been involved in a verbal battle with Efimova throughout the heats and the pair engaged in a finger-pointing battle after posting fast times in the semi-finals.

She also stuck to her guns in the post-race press conference, agreeing that American athletics team-mate Justin Gatlin - himself twice banned for doping - should not be in Rio either.

"I believe sports should be clean. It should be on a level playing field," US legend Michael Phelps said in regard to Efimova. "To have somebody test positive not just once but twice and still have the opportunity to swim at these Games, it breaks my heart."

Efimova's second suspension earlier this year was for the newly banned substance Meldonium. She could have made the case she was being unfairly punished as it had stayed in her system after it was legally taken.

But it was her first 16-month ban, given in 2014 and back-dated to 2013, that really rankles with the other athletes.

Many were upset she was allowed to compete in Rio despite the International Olympic Committee initially promising to block any Russians with previous doping sanctions.

Efimova only won her case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport to come to Rio last week and said she was relieved just to be competing.

"I'm happy to be here, it's very hard," she said. "These three weeks have been really hard. It's the best I can do right now."

The Russian may be content to move on, but others are less forgiving.

"We just have to be more on top of cleaning up the sport," American Connor Dwywer said after claiming bronze behind China's Sun Yang, who served a doping ban in 2014.

"The people that do get caught, I think, should be punished harder. I think Sun is a good guy, a great competitor, one of the best in the world. But as far as drugs testing goes I have no control of that," Dwyer said.

And while some are frustrated at losing medals, others have to put up with athletes who have doped, pushing them out of finals which could have potentially cost them sponsorships or funding.

“Cheaters are cheaters,” said Irish swimmer Fiona Doyle after being eliminated in the semi-finals. "They have signs all over the village saying we are a clean sport, and it’s not. And I just don’t think that’s fair.”

Last update: Tue, 09/08/2016 - 11:09

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