Swimming: Phelps: Rio doping doubts affected me and other athletes

WASHINGTON • American swimming legend Michael Phelps has spoken of his frustration at the possibility rivals were using drugs at last year's Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Phelps, in written testimony released ahead of his appearance yesterday at a United States congressional hearing into drug use in sport, said he and team-mates were left wondering whether they were competing on a level playing field in Rio.

It followed a build-up to the Games dogged by drugs scandals and revelations of a state-backed Russian doping programme across multiple sports.

"Rio was also unique because of increased doping concerns," he wrote in his statement.

"In the year leading up to the Games there was uncertainty and suspicion. I, along with a number of other athletes, signed a petition requesting that all athletes be tested in the months prior to the Games.

Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, posing with the Laureus Comeback of the Year award. The American first retired after the 2012 London Olympics but returned to the pool and won five golds at last year's Rio Games.
Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, posing with the Laureus Comeback of the Year award. The American first retired after the 2012 London Olympics but returned to the pool and won five golds at last year's Rio Games. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

"Unfortunately, the uncertainty remained even through the Games and I watched how this affected my team-mates and fellow competitors.

"We all felt the frustration, which undermines so much of the belief and confidence we work so hard to build up to prepare for the Olympics."

The 31-year-old retired from swimming after Rio, his fifth Olympics, adding five more golds to take his all-time tally to 23. He also has three silvers and two bronzes.

TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE

I can't adequately describe how frustrating it is to see another athlete break through performance barriers in unrealistic time frames knowing what I had to go through to do it.

MICHAEL PHELPS, the 23-time Olympic champion, on drug cheats.

The American superstar said the suspicion that some rivals throughout his career were cheating had consistently rankled him.

"Throughout my career I have suspected that some athletes were cheating and in some cases those suspicions were confirmed," he wrote. "Given all the testing I and so many others have been through, I have a hard time understanding this.

"I can't adequately describe how frustrating it is to see another athlete break through performance barriers in unrealistic time frames, knowing what I had to go through to do it."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2017, with the headline 'Phelps: Rio doping doubts affected me and other athletes'. Print Edition | Subscribe