Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Sink and Swim: Lilly King vs Yuliya Efimova, Russian doping

Sink and swim
by rick olivares

I can only imagine what was going through Russian swimmer Yuliya Efimova’s head before the finals of the 100-meter breaststroke today. Or Russia's 400-meter relay team of Andrey Grechin, Danila Izotov, Vladimir Morozov, and Alexander Sukhorukov when they entered the Aquatics Stadium. 

Those swimmers among other athletes accused and suspended for doping heard it not only from the crowd but from other athletes as well. And mostly likely it affected their performance.

Following the bombshell report dropped by the World Anti-Doping Agency about Russian state-sponsored cheating a month before the Olympics, the International Olympic Committee said that they would take a tough stand. Yet 271 of the 389 Russian athletes listed for the games were reinstated drawing anger and comments from different quarters.

Watching the Russian delegation booed upon their entrance at the Maracaña Stadium during the Opening Ceremony was a harbinger of things to come. They should be thankful that the booing was drowned out by the festive nature of the event. However, come competition time, the Russians and others like Chinese swimmer Sun Yang heard it from the crowd and were mercilessly ripped by their co-athletes.

However, they brought this upon themselves in more ways than one. 

First and foremost, they cheated. 

And second, following their reinstatement, they should have been more circumspect. Case in point: Efimova. Her finger wagging and raising her index finger to indicate that she’s number one was so tasteless that I am glad that her American nemesis Lilly King called her out for that. And that set up one mother of a finals where King took home the gold, Efimova the silver, and American Katie Meili. 

Efimova was in tears post-race from crying. But I am not sure that is from remorse or not winning the gold. Witness her statement: “I really don’t know how I even reached the final. It would have really been the end of a fairy tale, a horrible dream, if I’d won gold. But that was all I could do right now.”

As much as King and the other Americans celebrated raucously, she took the time to pat Efimova on the shoulder; one last gesture of sportsmanship more than rubbing it in.

The Russian foursome — they finished fourth in their event with hardly any sympathies. 

And it was just the Russians. Australian Mack Horton and Frenchman Camille Lacourt took some jabs at the Chinese swimmer following the 400-meter freestyle event. In that race, Horton won the gold with Sun taking home the silver while Italian Gabrielle Detti bagged a bronze. Lacourt came in fifth.

The Aussie called Sun “a drug cheat” after he was previously suspended for three months in 2014, a fact kept secret by Chinese sports officials. 

"I am very sad when I see my sport getting like this,” lamented Lacourt. "I have the impression I am looking at athletics, with two or three doped in each final. I hope that FINA (the world governing body) is going to do react and stop this massacre, because it is getting sad."

And it hasn’t gotten any easier for the Russian as the International Paralympic Committee issued a wholesale ban on Russian para-athletes citing “morals over medals” first.

To be fair, even King threw some bombs towards compatriot, sprinter Justin Gatlin who is seeded to give Usain Bolt a literal run for his money when the track competition gets going on August 13.

Said the outspoken swimmer, "I have to respect the decision even if it is something I don't necessarily agree with. Do I think people who have been caught doping should be on the team? They shouldn't. It is unfortunate we have to see that. It is just something that needs to be set in stone that this is what we are going to do. Let's settle this and be done with it. There should not be any bouncing back and forwards.”

Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this doping scandal.

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