Let's Ease Up on Demonizing This Swimmer

Case against Yulia Efimova isn't so clear, writes Sally Jenkins
By Linda Hervieux,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 11, 2016 11:21 AM CDT
Let's Ease Up on Demonizing This Swimmer
Russia's Yulia Efimova cries after placing second in the women's 100-meter breaststroke final in Rio. American Lilly King won gold.   (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

(Newser) – Americans ought to think twice before joining in the gleeful hazing of Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova, writes Sally Jenkins at the Washington Post. In a Cold War-style salvo, US swimmer Lilly King drew cheers at the Rio Olympics when she finger-wagged her Russian rival and called her a drug cheat. Efimova has been banned twice for using banned drugs but, unlike scores of other Russian athletes, was allowed to compete in Rio. After losing the gold medal to King on Monday in the 100-meter breaststroke, the 24-year-old Efimova was in tears at her news conference. But does the Chechnya native deserve the abuse heaped on her? Jenkins cautions that this is “not a moment of perfect American moral clarity.”

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For one thing, the Russian has lived in Los Angeles for the past five years. Of the two drug offenses on Efimova's record, one was for a nutritional supplement she bought at a GNC in LA that contained the banned hormone DHEA. Her English is not up to snuff, and her offense was ruled unintentional; the usual two-year suspension was cut to 16 months. Her second offense was for the heart drug meldonium; it was recently banned, though it's not clear how long it takes for the drug to clear the system. Her case harkens back to that of American swimmer Jessica Hardy, banned in 2008 over a supplement. She came back to win two medals at the London 2012 Games—and "no one splashed water in Hardy’s face or refused to shake her hand." Read the full column here. (Read more Yulia Efimova stories.)

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