Lilly King’s coaches defend anti-doping, trailblazing Olympic gold medalist

Lilly King (USA) before the women's 100m breaststroke final during the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Olympic Aquatics Stadium.

RIO DE JANEIRO — New Olympic gold medalist Lilly King disobeyed her coach’s direct orders — and became an anti-doping trailblazer in the process.

King’s college coach, Indiana’s Ray Looze, said late Monday night that he had talked to King specifically about how to handle questions related to the Russian doping scandal and the sudden reinstatement of Russian breaststroker Yulia Efimova.

“We were supposed to take the high road,” Looze said, laughing, less than an hour after King won gold in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke. “That’s what I told her to do! I told her, ‘Take the high road. Don’t say anything. Don’t get involved. Let’s let our actions speak louder than our words.’ But they’re adults, and they have opinions. The way it all laid out, with these (Russian swimmers) becoming eligible on Saturday … It’s a rollercoaster ride. Some people aren’t going to do anything about it unless the athletes rise up. Hopefully, this will lead to other people putting pressure on the governing bodies.

Lilly King: Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay, other U.S. Dopers don’t belong in Olympics.

“It’s something you can fix. Like, the McLaren report, all the retesting of former (athletes). It’s working. It’s just, people need to have a backbone. That’s all.

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“I support Lilly 100%. I’m not going to back down from that.”.

King has become one of the Rio Olympics’ brightest stars and loudest voices in defense of clean sport. She famously wagged her finger after Efimova’s semifinal swim and voiced her displeasure that Efimova was eligible to compete at these Games despite two previous suspensions tied to banned substances (one of which was later overturned).

Lilly King: Get to know USA’s 19-year-old swimmer.

After King beat Efimova on Monday night, King continued her crusade, emphasizing that she believes all athletes found to have cheated should not compete in the Olympic Games. But she said she has to respect FINA and the IOC, the governing bodies involved in the decision to allow Efimova, among other Russians, to swim here in Rio.

King’s public fight has inspired her coaches to speak even more strongly, both in her defense and against drug cheats. Looze brought up the case of Shirley Babashoff, who in the 1976 Montreal Olympics finished second four times to East German swimmers who were later found to have been doping.

“I swam against dopers,” Looze said. “Shirley Babashoff is still denied what is rightfully hers. She’s one of the greatest swimmers of all time, and they should retroactively go back and take away medals. That was a phenomenal swimmer. They can take away medals. The NCAA vacates championships.

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“You’ve got to hit people where it hurts.”.

When asked if he has been this angry all along but kept his opinions quiet, Looze said King “cracked” this open.

“We all feel the same way,” he said. “No one likes this.”.

Head U.S. Women’s coach David Marsh echoed Looze’s concerns.

“The sentiment around is the concern for our sport,” Marsh said. “What does it say for our sport if it’s proven there is systemic doping going on, that there are not heavier penalties by federations? … It’s absolutely taking away from clean athletes who are winning medals and should be celebrating. Probably more so, it’s taking away from athletes who are outside the medals.”.

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