U.S. swimmer Lilly King has become a national hero for letting the world know that Russia’s Yulia Efimova, who twice has been banned for doping, shouldn’t be anywhere near an Olympic pool.
King follows in the footsteps of many other people who believe that the entire Russian delegation shouldn’t have been allowed in the Rio Games. They’re right. The revelation that the country ran a state-sponsored doping program is an unforgivable offense.
But no NBC announcer has given even the slightest suggestion that there might be Americans who have used or are using performance-enhancing drugs. There has been lots of flag waving, but none of those flags has been red.
It would be reckless to question any one American swimmer’s performance, but hearing the TV chatterers extol the virtues of the U.S. swimmers has made me uneasy. Given that one of the biggest stories in American sports the last 30 years has been steroids, it seems more than a little naïve, if not unprofessional, to heap scorn on other countries without at least raising an eyebrow about our own performances. Is cheating not within the realm of possibility or are we so pure as for it to be unthinkable? At least ask the question of rah-rah analyst Rowdy Gaines, swimming’s answer to Scott Hamilton, and let him shoot it down.
If a swimmer from another country won a middle-distance race by almost five seconds, you can bet we’d be raising questions.
Russia and China have a track record of doping in swimming, so whatever benefit of the doubt other countries get is rightly gone in their cases. But what if they’re just bad at cheating? Or what if swimmers from other countries, including our own, are better at it?
Don’t blame me for asking. Blame NBC’s zealotry for producing the questions.