Great Britain’s triple world champion Adam Peaty has expressed his concerns about the possibility of drug cheats “ruining” swimming – and the moment of Olympic glory that could be ahead of him.
The sport has been in the spotlight of late in the context of doping, with The Times last week alleging systemic doping was taking place in Russian swimming and that positive tests by Chinese swimmers had been covered up.
Breaststroke world champion Yulia Efimova was suspended by the Russian Swimming Federation earlier this month amid reports she had tested positive for meldonium.
And swimmers Wang Lizhuo and An Jiabao were this week issued with warnings by the Chinese Swimming Association after testing positive for clenbuterol, a decision both swimming’s world governing body FINA and WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, are reviewing.
Peaty claimed gold in the 50 metres and 100m breaststroke at last year’s World Championships as well as in the 4x100m mixed medley relay, is the world record holder in all three, and is widely viewed as the favourite to win the longer individual event at this summer’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
And the 21-year-old City of Derby swimmer said of the recent news about doping in the sport: “I think there’s a positive side to it [dopers being caught] but at the end of the day it [doping] is ruining the reputation of all sports.
“If it happens any more people are going to be looking at the TV and saying ‘he’s a cheat’.
“I’m not a cheater, but if I win Olympic gold and people are looking at me and saying I am a cheat because I’ve won, it’s hugely disrespectful given the hard work I’ve put in.
“Swimming and all other sports have got to get to that place where you have the trust of the people watching it.
“You don’t want people thinking you’re a cheat just because you’re really fast and have broken the world record by a second.
“Training is my drug. I’m going to be the best I can in and out of the water – train right, eat right – and that is the way it should be.
“An Olympic champion shouldn’t be someone who has cheated to get there. They should be 100 per cent athletes who have made the sacrifices.
“Cheats are always going to be caught – and I hope they are before the Olympics because it is going to ruin the sport otherwise.”
Asked how he felt swimming compared to athletics in terms of a doping problem, Peaty said: “I think swimming still is one of those sports where you don’t have many dopers –but hopefully it is not going to grow any more, because you have Efimova, the Chinese swimmers that were caught.
“I’m going to put all my faith in the authorities to sort it out.”
Questioned as to how he would feel about lining up against Russian rivals in Rio, Peaty said: “I am not going to blame a whole nation.
“Hopefully, I’ll line up against Russians and they will be just as hard-working as I am.
“I’m just going to race, do what I do and hopefully leave it to WADA and FINA to sort it out.”
Peaty feels the frequency of anti-doping testing is vital.
“Hopefully WADA and FINA can put protocols in place with testing every other week – just now I’ve been tested three times in the last few weeks, and that is how it should be,” he said.
“I know testing week-on-week is expensive, but what’s more expensive [for the sport] is people coming out as cheats and then people not watching.”
FINA last week released a statement in which it said it was “currently conducting target-testing for the 10 best- performing athletes in each event, with at least five tests prior to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.”