It’ll be hero vs. villain in the Olympic pool on Monday night as American Lilly King and Russian Yulia Efimova, the top two qualifiers in the 100m breaststroke, go for gold in Rio. A rivalry was born after Efimova wagged her finger after finishing first in her semi-final heat.
"Ya know, you’re shaking your finger number one and you’ve been caught for drug cheating," said King in an interview with NBC after taking the top spot in the qualifier. "I’m just not a fan."
It's not the only rivalry in the pool either, as China's Sun Yang and Australian Mack Horton got into a bout in which the Aussie stated that he "didn't have time for drug cheats." Sun tested positive in 2014.
King's not the only one with feelings toward Efimova, who has tested positive for prohibited drugs twice in the past three years, as the Russian has been greeted with a warm helping of boos in each of her heats.
In 2014 Efimova tested positive for DHEA, a steroid hormone she claims was in a supplement she purchased that a salesperson assured wouldn’t land her in trouble. But the drug was clearly labeled. In turn she was suspended for 16 months.
Then in March of this year, one year after she had been cleared, the 24-year-old tested positive for meldonium, the same drug tennis star Maria Sharapova was suspended for two years for using earlier this year.
Because she tested positive soon after the drug was added to the list of prohibited drugs in January, Efimova was cleared to participate in the Olympics in July. The International Swimming Federation allowed her and many others back in the pool on the basis that it was unclear just how long meldonium stays in the body.
So King, and just about anyone not named Efimova, will be treated like a hometown favorite in Rio, as Efimova attempts to shake off the public hate and attempt to add to her bronze medal in the 200m breaststroke in London.