Lilly King, Tim Hinchey Express Concern over Anti-Doping Lapses during Pandemic

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Lilly King; Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Lilly King, Tim Hinchey Express Concern over Anti-Doping Lapses during Pandemic

Never shy about speaking out about anti-doping issues, American breaststroker Lilly King expressed concern Friday about less scrupulous programs taking advantages of lapses in anti-doping screening during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking at a press conference before Sunday’s start of U.S. Olympic Trials, King called the situation around doping “deeply concerning.” Due to restrictions on movement and reductions in physical human contact during the pandemic, anti-doping agents have had a harder time doing their jobs. The breaststroke world-record holder and others have expressed concern that such reductions in screening are rife for exploitation.

“I would definitely say some of the countries that have not been as trusted are probably taking advantage of the time that they had without testing,” King said. “Personally, I know I have been tested over 20 times in the past year, so I know the Americans are being well taken care of and myself especially. But unfortunately, the Americans can control what they can control, but the rest of the world not so sure.”

King’s testing over the last year included as part of a pilot program by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to test remotely. Both she and Katie Ledecky were part of that program.

The World Anti-Doping Agency issued guidelines in May 2020 designed to merge their protocols with the public health necessities of the moment. But it provided little in the way of concrete action items.

King has been outspoken in fighting for clean sport, particularly in her jousting with rival Yulia Efimova of Russia. Friday, she reiterated concerns expressed by Tim Hinchey, the President and CEO of USA Swimming, at his media availability. However, Hinchey expressed optimism that the election of new FINA president Husain Al Musallam and the appointment of Brent Nowicki as executive director of FINA is a positive step. Nowicki, an American lawyer, has dealt with anti-doping issues at the Court for Arbitration for Sport and oversaw CAS’s Anti-Doping Division at the last two Olympics.

“There’s concerns, just to be very honest with you,” Hinchey said. “You talk to our athletes, talk to our coaches, talk to our staff – there’s no doubt there’s been a bit of a blackout, so that’s a concern, I think. What gives me some confidence going forward in particular is the recent changes at FINA. I think Husain has made this an important part of his new agenda, coming in as the new president for FINA, and then you look at the new executive director from CAS, Brent has experience obviously working on anti-doping, so I think from a swimming perspective, that’s really good news and it’s something that needs to happen and go forward.”

King, never one to mince words, put it simply when asked if she thought tainted swimmers would be in the pool in Tokyo: “As always, unfortunately. Yes.”

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