The entire Russian team has been banned from the Paralympic Games for their state-sponsored doping program in Sochi
While the crowd at the Rio Olympics Aquatics Stadium is usually filled with cheers and applause, boos rang out when Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova entered the arena on Sunday for her preliminary heat of the 100-meter breaststroke.
Efimova, a 24-year-old first-time Olympian, was among the 118 Russian athletes barred from the 2016 Games due to a state-sponsored doping program at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but she was quietly reinstated and allowed to compete.
The swimmer previously served a 16-month suspension for doping and earlier this year failed a test for meldonium, a banned substance that resulted in the two-year suspension of tennis star Maria Sharapova earlier this year, though the result was overturned.
The fans aren’t the only ones unhappy with Efimova – 19-year-old American swimmer Lilly King mocked her competitor after the Russian placed first in her heat by waving her finger and shaking her head.
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King, who recorded the fastest semifinal time in the 100-meter breaststroke in a separate heat and will face off against Efimova in the finals Monday night, explained her reaction to NBC after her race.
“You’re shaking your finger ‘No. 1’ and you’ve been caught for drug cheating,” she said. “I’m not a fan.”
In addition to the athletes banned from the Olympics, which included all 67 track and field hopefuls, the entire Russian team has been banned from competing in the Paralympic Games in September as punishment for the country’s systematic doping program.
Russia has “catastrophically failed its para athletes,” International Paralympic Committee President Philip Craven said during the announcement, according to CNN. “Their medals-over-morals mentality disgusts me.”
A two-month investigation commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency confirmed that there was a state-sponsored doping program in place at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. In May, Grigory Rodchenkov, Russia’s former antidoping lab director, told The New York Times that he’d suppressed evidence of performance-enhancing drug use by the Russian Olympians at the last winter Games.
Before this year’s Games began, many fans called for Russia’s entire Olympics team to be banned in order to send a message that systematic cheating won’t be tolerated. However, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said doing so would be unfair.
“This is about doing justice to clean athletes all over the world. In this way we protect these clean athletes,” Bach said.