The 2016 Olympic Summer Games are here!
It’s time for the spirit of friendly competition to engulf us as we cheer on the athletes that represent our country. The Olympics are about performing at the highest level on the grandest stage. We see friends and rivals compete to determine who is the best. Emotions flow through the TV screen as we see triumph and defeat play out in tenths of a second. Utter jubilation. Heartbreaking disappointment. Athletes take the podium to be awarded for their feats. Tears stream as the respective country’s national anthem plays. People around the world become a little more patriotic.
I love the Summer Olympic games!
There are several sports I don’t follow. The Summer Olympics gives me the chance to learn something new with a vested interest (my country). You can’t beat it! Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t watch men’s/women’s rowing or rugby sevens. Thus far, Americans have absolutely dominated winning a total of 116 medals. Part of that domination was seen in swimming and gymnastics. Team U.S.A. is looking extremely powerful. As Americans, we should expect nothing less. Right?
As sports go, drama follows. Our mainstream media loves a good story, even if there’s nothing to report. Being that we live in an age infested with cameras and other recording devices, rarely do the athletes get a moment alone.
Enter Lilly King.
King, a 19-year-old swimmer from Indiana, was watching the monitor prior to her heat for the 200m Breaststroke. Yulia Efimova, a 24-year-old Russian swimmer, had just won her heat and raised up the “I’m no. 1” finger. King took exception to this and waved her finger back.
All of this was caught on camera.
The back story is that Efimova has been suspended twice for utilizing performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). In fact, a decision to overturn her 16-month suspension came days before the breaststroke event. To top it all off, Russia is embroiled in one of the biggest doping scandals in the modern Olympic era. Sixty-seven Russian athletes were banned from the Rio games by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). The decision to allow Efimova to participate did not sit well with King as was shown through her reaction toward’s Efimova’s no. 1 gesture. When asked about what is now known as the finger wag King replied, “You wave your finger No. 1, and you’ve been caught drug cheating? I’m not a fan.”
We now have drama.
The final heat of the 200m Breaststroke saw King win gold and Efimova win silver. However, the race only added to the bigger story.
Athletes should always compete clean.
King stood firm on her comments regarding doping indicating she’s glad she spoke out on this controversial issue. She even took shots at Justin Gatlin; an American sprinter who has been banned twice for using PEDs. The American public has hoisted King up as the poster child for clean athletics. Michael Phelps even voiced support for King’s comments. She’s received praise upon praise for being bold enough to call out performance-enhancing drug use in swimming.
Efimova, on the other hand, has had quite a different Olympic experience.
The Russian swimmer has been embroiled in controversy since being cleared to participate in the Rio games. She received two prior suspensions for doping; the second of which was overturned shortly before the Rio games. Add the fact that 67 Russian athletes were suspended from the Summer Games for state-sponsored doping, and you have a load of skeptics waiting to burn Efimova at the stake.
Americans have absolutely raked Efimova over the coals. The not-so-surprising fact is most don’t have a clue about the details regarding Efimova’s suspension. Her first infraction was deemed non-intentional as she claims she unknowingly took a banned substance. Her last suspension she tested positive for meldonium, a drug banned on Jan 1. of this year. The problem with the latest suspension is the unknown amount of time it takes for meldonium to exit the system. The manufacturer said it could take “several months.” This means it’s perfectly feasible for Efimova to have followed the rules and still failed the drug test. Thus, the suspension was overturned in time for Efimova to compete at Rio.
I was watching when NBC caught an unexpected story and ran with it. It’s a given NBC was going to ask King about the “finger wag.” King gave a straightforward answer on a contentious topic, and Efimova became the lightning rod for criticism.
That’s not fair.
Efimova is far from the poster child for doping in sports. Especially when one considers prominent American names such as Lance Armstrong, Alex Rodriguez, and Roger Clemens. While Russia is having their doping troubles, let us not forget that Americans have our own issues to correct. I applaud King for standing up for what’s right, but I hate the self-righteous attitude. It totally negates the message. I also disagree with the host of Americans who have relentlessly criticized Efimova with no facts to back them. It’s worth taking a step back and looking at our own life. I’m sure some of us would put the stones back on the ground.
I’m sure there are situations where we would like the benefit of the doubt.