Five-Ring Circus

American Swimmer Lilly King Wags Finger at Russian Rival, Calls Her a Drug Cheat

Lilly King of the United States wags her finger after competing in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke semifinal at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday.

Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

On Saturday, my colleague Ian Prasad Philbrick wrote that “Russia’s partial attendance at the 2016 Olympics gives the games what they’ve been missing since the Cold War: a real villain.” That villain now has a name: Yuliya Efimova.

Efimova had been one of the very many athletes who were deemed ineligible to compete at the Rio Games due to Russia’s state-sponsored doping program. As SwimSwam reports:

Efimova has twice tested positive for banned substances—once in 2013 (for which she served a 16-month suspension) and once earlier this year for a newly-banned substance meldonium, for which she was found as having “no fault” after the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) couldn’t determine how long the substance might remain in ones body after being outlawed on January 1st. Efimova is not currently suspended for anything, but the IOC ruled that no Russians who had previously been sanctioned for doping would be allowed in the Olympics after WADA accused the entire federation of covering up positive doping tests.


But Efimova appealed her status to the Court for Arbitration of Sport, and that appeal was granted. On Sunday, she won her semifinal heat in the 100-meter breaststroke, after which she saucily wagged her finger in a Dikembe Mutombo–esque fashion. Her American counterpart Lilly King, who was waiting to get in the pool for her semifinal, wagged right back.


King won her own heat, edging out Efimova’s time. In a postrace interview with NBC’s Michele Tafoya, she said, “You’re shaking your finger No. 1, and you’ve been caught for drug cheating—I’m just not a fan.”

King added, “I’m going to go swim my heart out for USA.”

The Olympics Cold War is back!

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