Lilly King took a stand against doping by calling out Yulia Efimova at the 2016 Olympics, but her views aren't reserved just for the Russian rival. Following King's gold medal victory in the women's 100-meter breaststroke final in Rio on Monday night, the American said that any athlete who has been punished for doping in the past should be barred from Olympic competition.
That includes King's teammates on the United States' national team.
When asked about Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay, two members of the U.S. track and field team who have failed drug tests in the past, King refused to hold back. Just like when she pointedly said she was "not a fan" of Efimova before their big showdown in the final, King made it clear she doesn't believe athletes like Gatlin and Gay should be on Team USA.
"I have to respect (the track authorities') decision even if it is something I don't necessarily agree with," King said in an interview after winning gold. "Now, do I think people who have been caught doping should be on the team? They shouldn't. It is unfortunate we have to see that.
"It is just something that needs to be set in stone that this is what we are going to do. Let's settle this and be done with it. There should not be any bouncing back and forwards."
Both Gatlin and Gay have returned from doping suspensions to be in Rio.
Gatlin, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist, has been suspended multiple times during his career. In 2001, he received a two-year ban after testing positive for amphetamines, then in 2006 failed another drug test and received an eight-year ban. That ban got reduced to four years, however, and Gatlin resumed competing internationally in 2010. He won a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics in London and hasn't had any issues since.
Gay won a silver medal in 2012 as part of the U.S. men's 4x100-meter relay team, but he tested positive for a banned substance in 2013. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency suspended Gay for a year and stripped him of his 2012 Olympic medal. Now Gay is back on the 4x100m relay team and will run in Rio next week.
Those are only two instances of athletes with prior doping offenses who are now competing in the Olympics, but it's not that uncommon. The rules for banned substances are regularly altered and updated by the various organizations tasked with maintaining integrity in sport. With so many athletes doing whatever it takes to shave fractions of seconds off their times, technology constantly changing and big money involved, doping has become a widespread issue.
King, on the other hand, proudly proclaimed Monday night after her victory, "It’s incredible, just winning a gold medal, and knowing I did it clean."
With the additional comments about Gatlin and Gay, King is showing she wasn't simply making a fuss as part of a USA-Russia rivalry. There's no doubt that the 19-year-old used the controversy to helped motivate her to beat Efimova in the pool, but now she's doubling down. Going back and forth with Efimova -- trash talking, finger wagging and all -- wasn't merely to get the juices flowing.
King even ignored the advice of her college coach, Indiana University's Ray Looze, in taking a stand. "We were supposed to take the high road," Looze said. "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 once she decided to speak up, Looze was fully on board, and the same goes for David Marsh, head coach of the national team.
"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."
King's stand is not going unappreciated, partially because it seems to come from a genuine place. Calling out a Russian competitor for doping just looks like stoking the old Cold War rivalry if those principles aren't also applied to American teammates. And while there are undeniable issues with a "one strike and you're out" policy for doping offenses, it seems clear the right balance hasn't been found.
America's newest swimming star isn't backing down. King doesn't want dopers competing with her or against her. She's always completed clean, and expects the same of every other Olympian.