Yulia Efimova
Getty Images

Yuliya Efimova, Russian Olympic medalist swimmer, may face lifetime ban

1 Comment

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Olympic swimming medalist Yuliya Efimova of Russia faces a possible lifetime ban after being provisionally suspended for a second doping violation. Her U.S.-based coach said Efimova has indicated she wants to fight the accusation.

The 23-year-old breaststroke specialist who has won four world titles and an Olympic bronze medal is the latest high-profile name caught up in the series of doping scandals that have dogged Russia over the past two years. She owns the world’s fastest time in the 100-meter breaststroke and the second quickest in the 200 breast this year, and is considered one of Russia’s top medal hopes for the Rio Olympics in August.

In a brief statement, the Russian Swimming Federation said it had received documents from international governing body FINA stating that Efimova was suspended “in connection with a possible breach of anti-doping rules.”

The federation did not confirm reports in the Russian media that Efimova tested positive for meldonium, the same substance found in tennis star Maria Sharapova’s sample at the Australian Open in January.

If Efimova’s case is confirmed to be a positive test for meldonium, her earlier medals would not be affected because the substance has only been banned since Jan. 1.

Efimova trains in Los Angeles under Dave Salo, who coaches at the University of Southern California.

“Yulia stopped taking it [meldonium] in December when it became evident it was going to be on the banned list,” Salo told The Associated Press by phone Thursday from Atlanta, where he is coaching at the NCAA Championships. “She sent me a text almost immediately yesterday and tried to assure me that she hadn’t done anything since December.”

Salo said any athlete training under him is subject to drug testing by WADA and USADA, which visit his pool weekly, unlike some other countries where testing is less stringent.

“It’s not coming from me, it never has come from me,” Salo said. “I don’t think kids need supplementation of any sort. I’ve never counseled kids to take anything. They know my stance on it.”

Salo said his role in Efimova’s career involves only training and coaching in the pool, and she has others who oversee her physical therapy, weight training and nutrition.

“I don’t know who’s counseling her in Russia,” he said. “She’s a great kid, she’s a hard-working person. She’s tremendously talented, she doesn’t need these things to be successful.”

Salo said the larger problem in swimming is athletes seeking an edge who listen to outside influences such as doctors, yoga instructors and other swimmers, as well as some coaches who suggest supplements.

“We’ve created an environment where there’s an expectation that these kids have to take something,” he said.

Efimova, who won bronze in the 200-meter breaststroke at the 2012 London Olympics, could be banned for life if found guilty of a second career doping offense.

She was stripped of five European Championship medals after testing positive for the banned steroid DHEA in 2013. Efimova’s ban on that occasion was reduced from two years to 16 months after she argued that she had taken the substance by accident while trying to buy a legal supplement.

Efimova returned from that ban to win gold in the 100m breaststroke at last year’s world championships in Kazan, Russia.

Salo said he would speak to Efimova when he returns to Los Angeles next week.

“Her text was, ‘Please believe me. I didn’t do this on purpose,'” he said. “I believe her. She’s culpable to the extent that she has a lot of other people in her ear.”

Efimova is in the U.S. as part of a program in which the Russian swimming federation sends top athletes abroad for specialized coaching. Federation coach Sergei Ilin told Russian news agency RIA Novosti that none of the other top Russians based in the United States was under suspicion of doping.

“If we’re talking about the group of athletes in the U.S., then so far this case is just about Efimova,” he said.

MORE: Vladimir Putin calls for Russia to up fight against doping

Joey Mantia extends U.S. medal streak at speed skating worlds; Dutch dominance returns

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Joey Mantia ensured the host U.S. finished with a medal at the world single distances championships. Ireen WüstKjeld Nuis and Jorrit Bergsma ensured the Netherlands finished atop the medal standings.

Mantia joined Shani Davis as the only U.S. men to earn individual medals at three different editions of the championships, taking bronze in the 1500m on the last day of the speed skating meet at the 2002 Olympic oval outside Salt Lake City.

Mantia won the mass start at the last two worlds in 2017 and 2019 (and finished fifth on Sunday, after the 1500m bronze).

Mantia clocked a personal best 1:42.16 in the fifth of 12 pairs of the 1500m. It held up until Nuis (1:41.66) and countryman Thomas Krol (1:41.73) in the last two pairs.

“Was starting to think that I’m so old that I can’t time trial anymore,” Mantia, a 34-year-old whose last 1500m personal best came in 2015, told media in Utah. “Maybe there’s a little bit of hope left.”

Mantia’s medal extended the U.S. streak of making the podium at every world championships this millennium — 16 straight. The single bronze is the smallest medal output since 2000.

Full results are here.

Wüst and Nuis gave the Dutch a sweep of the men’s and women’s 1500m titles, two years after they did the same at the PyeongChang Olympics. Bergsma, an Olympic and world 10,000m champion, earned his first global medal of any color — gold — in the 16-lap mass start.

The Netherlands failed to earn any golds on the first two days of the four-day competition. The dominant Dutch, who topped the medal standings at every Olympics and worlds dating to the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, entered Sunday trailing Russia.

But Wüst began the day by clocking 1:50.92 to win the 1500m by .21 over Russian Yevgenia Lalenkova. American medal hope Brittany Bowe, the 2015 World champion who took bronze last year, finished 14th a day after taking eighth in her world-record 1000m distance.

Nuis and Krol went one-two in the men’s 1500m to tie Russia’s medal total. Then Irene Schouten took bronze in the women’s mass start to put the Netherlands ahead for good, followed by Bergsma’s capper.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Shani Davis retires, takes new role in speed skating

Netherlands on the board; more world records at speed skating worlds

AP
Leave a comment

It took four world records from other countries before the Netherlands won its first title in an Olympic program event at the world single distances speed skating championships.

Jutta Leerdam got the dominant skating nation on the board on the third day of the four-day competition and in the ninth Olympic program event. Leerdam scored an upset over defending champion and world-record holder Brittany Bowe, the American who ended up eighth.

Leerdam, 21, prevailed despite having zero World Cup podiums to her name. She clocked 1:11.84, just .23 slower than Bowe’s world record set on the same Utah Olympic Oval last year. Bowe, who recently had her yearlong win streak snapped in the 1000m, finished in 1:12.92.

“It’s a nightmare,” Bowe said, according to media on site.

Later, the Netherlands won the men’s team pursuit in a world record 3:34.68, the fifth world record in Olympic events the last two days on the world’s fastest ice at the 2002 Olympic oval outside Salt Lake City.

Full results are here.

The world championships conclude Sunday, highlighted by American Joey Mantia defending his world title in the mass start.

In other Saturday events, both the men’s 1000m and women’s 5000m world records fell. On Friday, world records were lowered in the men’s 10,000m and women’s team pursuit.

Pavel Kulizhnikov followed his Friday world 500m title with the 1000m crown, repeating his double gold from 2016. Kulizhnikov was one of the Russians banned from the PyeongChang Olympics after he served a prior doping ban.

On Saturday, Kulizhnikov clocked 1:05.69 to take .49 off Dutchman Kjeld Nuis‘ record from last March, also set at Salt Lake City. Nuis, the Olympic 1000m and 1500m champion, took silver, 1.03 seconds behind.

Russian Natalya Voronina and Czech Martina Sablikova both went under Sablikova’s world record in the 5000m. Voronina came out on top in 6:39.02, 2.99 seconds faster than Sablikova’s record from a year ago and 2.16 seconds faster than Sablikova on Saturday.

Voronina’s time would have been the men’s world record as recently as 1993. Sablikova won the previous 10 world titles in the event dating to 2007.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: World Single Distances Championships broadcast schedule