American swimmer Ryan Murphy ignited controversy at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday, contending that he was swimming in a race that’s “probably not clean,” before backtracking.
Murphy vented his frustrations after he took silver in the men’s 200-meter backstroke, losing to Evgeny Rylov of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).
“I’ve got about 15 thoughts. Thirteen of them would get me into a lot of trouble,” the 26-year-old Murphy said. “It is a huge mental drain on me to go throughout the year that I’m swimming in a race that’s probably not clean.”
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The Wall Street Journal reported that the International Olympic Committee officially banned Russia from the Tokyo Games due to fallout from a doping scandal, though hundreds of Russian athletes were still competing under the ROC banner.
The Russian Olympic Committee responded on its official Twitter account.
“How unnerving our victories are of individual colleagues,” the ROC wrote, according to the paper. “Yes, we are here at the Olympics. Absolutely right. Whether someone likes it or not.”
“The old barrel organ started the song about Russian doping again,” it added. “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.”
Murphy, who three days prior finished third in the 100-meter backstroke behind Rylov and another Russian, Kliment Kolesnikov, later clarified that he was not accusing the Russian of doping.
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“I need to be clear,” he said. “My intention is not to make any allegations here. Congratulations to Evgeny, congratulations to Luke. They both did an incredible job. They’re both very talented swimmers. They both train real hard and they’ve got great technique.”
Rylov also denied being involved in any doping schemes.
“I have always been for clean competition,” he said through a translator. “I’m tested. I fill out all the forms. I’m for clean sport. I’ve been devoting my whole life to this (sport).”
The latest rules and restrictions on Russian athletes participating in the Olympics came last year from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) amid the country’s cover-up of anti-doping data.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) spotted strange anomalies in Russia’s lab files related to doping. WADA investigators said evidence had been deleted and spurious information added, including messages to tarnish the reputation of former lab director Grigory Rodchenkov.
The doping revelations resulted in a four-year sanction against Russia, but the country denied any wrongdoing and the penalty was cut in half by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Critics have pointed out that the punishment lacks any real bite since Russian teams are wearing full national colors. Their flag is banned and their national anthem can’t be played during medal ceremonies, but they do get music from Russian composer Tchaikovsky.
Two Russian swimmers, Alexandr Kudashev and Veronika Andrusenko were initially banned from competing in Tokyo by the world governing body FINA because of evidence gathered from the Moscow lab.
But, just days before the opening ceremony, CAS cleared both swimmers to take part in the Olympics.
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Murphy swept the backstroke events at the 2016 Rio Games.
The Associated Press contributed to this report