Olympic athletes claim they are losing out to Russian rivals who are not ‘clean’


A new ‘cold war’ doping row broke out at the Tokyo Olympics pool as a US swimmer said his 200m backstroke final was ‘probably not clean’ after losing his title to the Russian Olympic Committee contender.

After losing the second of his 2016 Rio Olympic backstroke titles to Russian Evgeny Rylov, 24, on Friday, an unhappy Ryan Murphy, 26, hinted doping had played a part in his demise.

Team GB bronze medal winner Luke Greenbank, 23, also questioned whether he was racing against ‘clean’ swimmers in the 200 metres backstroke after winning bronze behind Russian Mr Rylov. 

Mr Rylov clocked 1min 53.27sec to touch out Murphy by just 0.88sec, with Greenbank finishing in a time of 1:54.72 in a repeat of the result at the World Championships in 2019. 

The Russian athlete insisted he has ‘always been for clean competition’, saying he is ‘always tested’.    

Mr Murphy had later walked back his comments saying they were not directed specifically at his Russian rivals but at the sport which he said still has a big doping problem. 

But the Russian Olympic Committee hit back on Twitter, labelling American complaints as nothing more than sour grapes. 

Gold medalist Evgeny Rylov (R) of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), silver medalist Ryan Murphy of the United States pose after the men’s 200m backstroke final of swimming at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

The Russian Olympic Committee is currently ranked fifth overall at the Tokyo Games, with 11 gold medals, 15 silver and 12 bronze

The Russian Olympic Committee is currently ranked fifth overall at the Tokyo Games, with 11 gold medals, 15 silver and 12 bronze

Greenbank, who came third in the 200m backstroke, said it was 'frustrating' not knowing whether a fellow athlete had doped

Greenbank, who came third in the 200m backstroke, said it was ‘frustrating’ not knowing whether a fellow athlete had doped

This prompted a fiery response from the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) chief Travis Tygart, who came to the defence of American swimmer Mr Murphy for suggesting some of his rivals were drug cheats.

THE RANKINGS: CHINA LEADS WITH THE US IN SECOND – AS GB STAY IN 6th PLACE BEHIND RUSSIAN OLYMPIC COMMITTEE 

The Russian Olympic Committee is currently ranked fifth overall at the Tokyo Games, with 11 gold medals, 15 silver and 12 bronze.

Great Britain is just behind in sixth, with nine gold, 10 silver and 12 bronze medals.

The overall leader is China, who have won 23 gold medals, 14 silver and 12 bronze.

The United States are in second, with 20 gold, 20 silver, and 14 bronze.

The host nation, Japan, are in third with 17 gold medals, 5 silver and 8 bronze.

‘The Russian state and sport officials put the dark cloud over themselves and in the process, tragically, pushed their athletes out in the storm,’ Mr Tygart wrote in an email.

Russia is competing in Tokyo as representatives of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) because the country was stripped of its flag and anthem for doping offences, a punishment that Tygart has decried as a joke. 

Mr Tygart continued in his email: ‘Now these officials want to continue to lie, deny and attack those with the courage to stand up to their deceit and blatant disregard for the rules and the truth.

‘That’s fine because we all know if you cheat, you have no problem lying about your cheating.’

Team GB’s Luke Greenbank had admitted it was ‘frustrating’ that the Russian Olympic Committee were competing at Tokyo 2020 despite the country being banned over their state-sponsored doping programme.

Silver medalist Mr Murphy was first to raise concerns about the event having finished behind Rylov, who completed a 100m and 200m backstroke double with an Olympic record.

But asked if he agreed with Murphy’s comments, Team GB’s Greenbank replied: ‘It’s obviously a very difficult situation not knowing whether who you are racing against is clean. It is something that is part of sports and the board needs to tackle that.

‘It’s a frustrating situation. I just need to keep my mind on the race and control what I can control.

‘I can’t really speak on Ryan’s behalf. Obviously, there’s a lot of media around the Russian federation coming into the Olympics. Obviously it’s frustrating seeing that as an athlete, having known that there is a state-sponsored doping programme going on and more could be done to tackle that.’

Along with Russia, Tygart also took aim at two other familiar targets – the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) – for what USADA has viewed as a limp response to Russian doping scandals.

Luke Greenbank (R) questioned whether he took part in a 'clean' race after Russia's Evgeny Rylov (C) secured a gold medal ahead of USA's Ryan Murphy (L)

Luke Greenbank (R) questioned whether he took part in a ‘clean’ race after Russia’s Evgeny Rylov (C) secured a gold medal ahead of USA’s Ryan Murphy (L)

Silver medalist Ryan Murphy opened the discussion about whether the race was 'clean', saying his thoughts would 'get me into a lot of trouble'

Silver medalist Ryan Murphy opened the discussion about whether the race was ‘clean’, saying his thoughts would ‘get me into a lot of trouble’

Russia is competing in Tokyo as representatives of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) because the country was stripped of its flag and anthem for doping offences, a punishment that Tygart has decried as a joke.

‘Unfortunately, we’ve seen this horror film already – where the Russian state-sponsored doping programme walks free and Russia wins while the IOC and WADA leaders attempt to pull the wool over the world’s eyes by claiming Russia is ”banned”,’ said Tygart.

‘All can now see this ”ban” once again for the farce that it is.

Travis Tygart came to the defence of American swimmer Mr Murphy for suggesting some of his rivals were drug cheats

Travis Tygart came to the defence of American swimmer Mr Murphy for suggesting some of his rivals were drug cheats

‘It is barely a ”rebrand” and will do nothing to stop the corruption in Russia and likely will embolden others willing to win by any means.

‘It’s a doomed system that allows, as it has here, one nation to make a mockery of the Games by their thirst for medals over values.’

Tygart challenged the ROC that if they want the world to stop questioning them about doping then make test results public.

‘They should put their money where their rhetoric is by making individual tests by athlete name public and allow a transparent international accounting of the reality of whether things have changed within Russia, as the evidence of the last years is that nothing has unfortunately,’ Tygart said.

In an extraordinary press conference where all three medallists were sat together, Rylov was then asked outright if he doped.

The 24-year-old replied: ‘I have always been for clean competition. I am always tested. I will fill out all of the forms.

‘From the bottom of my heart, I am for clean sport. I am devoting my whole life to this sport. I don’t even know how to react to that.

‘Ryan has all the right to think the way he does and to say whatever he says. This is today and here that we live. We don’t live in the past, we don’t live in the future.  

Questioned immediately after the race if he thought the race was clean, Murphy replied: ‘I’ve got about 15 thoughts. Thirteen of them would get me into a lot of trouble.

‘It is a huge mental drain on me to go throughout the year (thinking) that I’m swimming in a race that’s probably not clean, and that is what it is.

‘The people that know a lot more about the situation made the decision they did. It frustrates me, but I have to swim the field that’s next to me.

‘I don’t have the bandwidth to train for the Olympics at a very high level and try to lobby the people who are making the decisions that they’re making the wrong decisions.’

Following it up in his press conference, Murphy added: ‘To be clear, my intention is not to make any accusations here.

‘At the end of the day, I do believe there is doping in swimming. I think FINA needs to be more transparent both on the financial side and the drug taking side.

‘There’s people that know a lot more about this situation than I do. I’m training to be the absolutely best athlete I can be. So I don’t have time to get involved in this situation.

‘But there is a situation and that’s a problem. I’m sorry that there is a situation but I don’t know enough about it to give a 100 per cent certain answer.’

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