Olympics-'Maybe this sport's not fair' US swimmers vent over doping controversy

FILE PHOTO: Fukuoka 2023 World Aquatics Championships - Swimming - Marine Messe Fukuoka Hall A, Fukuoka, Japan - July 30, 2023 Lilly King of the U.S. in action during the women's 4 x 100m medley relay final REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - Faith in a level playing field at international competitions has been shaken by reports that Chinese swimmers had tested positive for banned substances ahead of the Tokyo Games in 2021, U.S. swimmers said on the eve of the Olympic Trials in Indianapolis.

The New York Times in April reported that 23 Chinese swimmers tested positive before the Tokyo Games but were allowed to compete anyway.

A subsequent Times report on Friday said three of them had also tested positive for another banned substance in 2016 and 2017 with two of those athletes going on to win gold in Tokyo.

"It's really frustrating for athletes to always have in the back of our mind that maybe this sport's not fair," two-time Olympic gold medalist Lilly King told reporters.

"We put everything on the line. Our privacy, everything that we do to compete on a level playing field. It's really frustrating to not have faith that others are doing the same thing."

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on Friday pushed back against criticism of its handling of the most recent Times report, saying the positive tests were due to the swimmers consuming contaminated meat, which it said was not an uncommon occurrence in that part of the world.

"It's really disappointing and frustrating for all the athletes that do go through the (anti-doping testing) process on a regular basis," said Cody Miller, who picked up a gold and a bronze at the Rio Games in 2016.

"Like when they show up at my house when I'm trying to put my kids to bed or trying to feed them dinner and I have to go to the restroom with a stranger and pee in a cup."

Despite the controversy, U.S. women's national team coach Todd DeSorbo said morale was high among the swimmers headed into the Trials, which will determine the 52-person U.S. team for the Paris Olympics that begin next month.

"I don't know that it's impacted our athletes at all," he told reporters.

"They are thinking about today, tomorrow, this meet, this competition. They're focusing on themselves and getting ready to swim fast this week."

The U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials involve more than 1,000 athletes and are being held over nine consecutive nights at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts.

It is expected to be the largest swim meet ever.

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Indianapolis; editing by Diane Craft)

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