Michael Phelps is widely recognized as the greatest swimmer in the history of the sport and deservedly so. He is the most decorated Olympian of all time with 28 Olympic medals including 13 individual gold medals. So, it would come as no surprise that anyone missed the fact that he is also one of the biggest hypocrites when it comes to the issue of doping in the Olympic Games.
When Phelps’ American compatriot Lilly King was busy insulting her chief rival Russian Yulia Efimova with a barrage of bad sportsmanship behaviors, Phelps was cheering her on.
King defeated Efimova to win the gold medal in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke and then refused to congratulate or even acknowledge that Efimova was in the room. King offered no apologies. The reason for King’s bad sportsmanship? Doping.
“You know, you’re shaking your finger No. 1 and you’ve been caught for drug cheating,” King said. “I’m just not, you know, a fan.”
King did not believe that any athlete who had served a drug-related suspension was worthy or deserving of competing in the Olympic Games.
Phelps was asked about King’s comments and he jumped on board to support her sentiments. It apparently “broke his heart” that someone like Efimova was allowed to compete.
“I believe sport should be clean and sport should be on an even playing field, and I think that it’s sad that in sports today we have people who are testing positive not only once but twice and still having the opportunity to swim at this Games,” Phelps said. “It breaks my heart and I wish somebody would do something about it.”
Phelps was widely praised for his strong stand against doping as a result of those comments. Phelps showed no sympathy for athletes who made poor choices in the past and were still given an opportunity to appear at the Olympics.
Of course, few people remembered that USA Swimming suspended Phelps for 6 months in 2014 for a couple of drug-related incidents involving a marijuana bong incident and a driving under the influence (of alcohol) arrest.
Phelps’ hypocrisy and double standards were even more glaring after a few critics noted that Phelps made the comments shortly after an Instagram selfie was posted showing him grinning alongside Justin Gatlin. Gatlin served two doping-related suspensions – a two-year suspension in 2001 for amphetamines and a four-year suspension in 2006 for testosterone – but was legally permitted to compete at the 2016 Rio Olympics in spite of vocal objections from anti-doping crusaders.
Even King was adamantly opposed to seeing Gatlin on the American team. She said it was “unfortunate” that she had to share the Team USA uniform with Gatlin.
“Now, do I think people who have been caught doping should be on the team?” King said. “They shouldn’t. It is unfortunate we have to see that.”
King would have probably given Gatlin the cold shoulder just like she did to Efimova. And she certainly would not have approved of Phelps cavorting with Gatlin in front of thousands of Instagram viewers.