Limerick Olympian Fiona Doyle has hit out at the Olympic organisers the IOC and the world swimming governing body FINA after her 100m breaststroke heat on Sunday was won by a Russian swimmer previously banned for drug use.
Doyle just missed out on a place in the semi-finals after finishing eighth in her heat and 20th overall as only the top 16 went through to the next phase.
And speaking afterwards a very disappointed Doyle spoke out against Yulia Efimova’s presence in the competition after the Russian’s ban was lifted at the last moment.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had originally declared a ban on all Russian competitors who either had positive tests on their record or were named in last month’s investigation of the state-sanctioned doping scheme: instead, Efimova, however, got around her ban at the last minute, added to the revised starting list over the weekend after FINA were informed of her successful appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
“Cheaters are cheaters,” said Doyle after her race. “She (Efimova) has tested positive five times and she’s gotten away with it again. It’s like FINA keep going back on their word, and the IOC keep going back on their word.
“And FINA caved in to (Vladimir) Putin, and that’s just not fair on the rest of the athletes who are clean. Who are you supposed to trust now? They have signs all over the village saying we are a clean sport, and it’s not. And I just don’t think that’s fair.”
Swimming in the fifth of sixth heats, Doyle certainly put herself in contention at the turn, lying in fourth, only couldn’t quite sustain it over the second 50m as Efimova pulled away to take the win in 1:05.79, the second fastest qualifier behind Lilly King of the USA.
Doyle finished in 1:07.58, short of her Irish record of 1:07.15, but only .26 of a second outside the top 16 needed to get the 24 year-old Raheen girl into the semi-finals.
“Honestly, coming eighth in my heat, and when only 16 go through, I knew I straightaway I probably hadn’t made it,” she added.
Asked if all this had soured her Olympic experience (although she will also swim in the 200m breaststroke) Doyle had to try hard not to admit that it had.
“A little bit, yeah. There’s just been too much focus on cheaters, and I don’t like adding to that, but at the same time I think it has to be put out there.
“But I don’t want to put my performance down to her. I wanted to stand up and do it for myself. And that just makes it even more disappointing, to stand up and not show it. I don’t want to say anything, lane one or lane eight, because I wouldn’t blame it on that. I was in lane eight at the Europeans and finished fourth. I felt the best that I ever felt in the warm-up, training had gone so well, so to come away without another swim is very disappointing.”
Efimova - the 2012 bronze medallist and reigning World champion - had not only served a 16-month suspension in 2013 after testing positive for anabolic steroids, but tested positive again this year for the now-banned substance meldonium.
That ban was placed on hold while the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) does further studies on the drug. Instead, CAS then overturned the IOC ban, ruling that no athlete can be banned from Rio on the basis that they have been previously sanctioned.
Doyle swims again on Wednesday in the 200m breaststroke heats.