The Russian Olympic Committee has lashed out at suggestions of their athletes doping at the Tokyo Olympics in a furious statement, and even accused the claims of being ‘propaganda’ from the mouths of those ‘offended by defeats’.
Team GB’s Luke Greenbank questioned whether he was racing against ‘clean’ swimmers in the 200m backstroke after taking the bronze medal behind Ryan Murphy and the winner, Evgeny Rylov of Russia.
It was silver medallist Murphy who first raised concerns over the event, and Greenbank added to this by admitting it was ‘frustrating’ that the ROC were competing despite the country being banned.
Russia were prevented from taking part after a state-sponsored doping programme was uncovered, and they were also found guilty by the Court of Arbitration for Sport after failing to comply with a World Anti-Doping Agency probe.
Rylov, who completed a 100m and 200m backstroke double with an Olympic record, is allowed to represent Russia’s Olympic Committee rather than the flag along with hundreds of others, a decision that has been widely criticised.
But soon after the first doubts were voiced on Friday morning, the ROC issued a strongly-worded statement and declared it is ‘absolutely right’ that they were allowed to compete in Japan this summer.
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)
It read: ‘How unnerving our victories are for [some]. Yes, we are here at the Olympics. Absolutely right. Whether people like it or not.
‘But you have to be able to lose. Not everyone is given this. The old hurdy-durdy has again started up the song about Russian doping. Someone is twisting the handle carefully. English language propaganda, oozing verbal sweat in the Tokyo heat.
‘Through the mouths of athletes offended by defeats. We will not console you. Forgive those who are weaker. God is their judge. And for us, an assistant.’
Asked if he agreed with Murphy’s comments, Team GB’s Greenbank had 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 there is a state-sponsored doping programme going on and more could be done to tackle that.’
Greenbank, who came third in the 200m backstroke, said it was ‘frustrating’ not knowing whether a fellow athlete had doped
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.
‘The time will tell. He did not accuse me of anything, that is why I don’t have anything against him because he didn’t put up forth anything against me directly.’
Silver medallist Ryan Murphy opened the discussion about whether the race was ‘clean’, saying his thoughts would ‘get me into a lot of trouble’
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.
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.’
Rylov expressed his innocence after the race, stressing that he is ‘always tested’ and believes in clean sport
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.’