Perhaps taking a cue from the Washington political and pundit class, a prominent US Olympic athlete has managed to blame nefarious Russian underhanded actions for his losing a race he was the top contender for. Ryan Murphy raised the prospect in a post-race media interview after coming in 2nd for the men's 200-meter backstroke on Thursday. He was beaten by Russian swimmer Evgeny Rylov - who like all other Russians at the games is competing at Tokyo under the "Russian Olympic Committee" name, or ROC, given the years-long ban on Russia stemming from the 2014 doping scandal.
"I’ve got about 15 thoughts, and 13 of them would get me into a lot of trouble," Murphy told reporters after the race which he had barely lost. "It is a huge mental drain to go through the year knowing that I’m swimming in a race that’s probably not clean, and that is what it is."
"The people that know a lot more about the situation made the decision that they did," he added. "I don’t have the bandwidth to train for the Olympics at a very high level and try to lobby the people that are making the decisions that they’re making the wrong decisions."
The comments sparked a storm of controversy given it sounded like a direct accusation, prompting the Russian gold medal winner Rylov to have to address it, issuing an assurance that: "I have always been for clean competition. I am always tested." He added: "From the bottom of my heart, I am for clean sport. I am devoting my whole life to this sport. I don’t even know how to react to that. Ryan didn’t accuse me of anything so I’d rather not react to what he said."
Murphy later attempted to deny it was accusation, but still suggested the "possibility" of Russian doping when asked by a reporter. The exchange was detailed in The Guardian as follows:
"To be clear, my intention is not to make any allegations, congratulations to Evgeny, congratulations to Luke, they did an incredible job and they’re both very talented swimmers who work very hard and have great technique," Murphy said.
Asked again if he believed the race was clean, Murphy replied: "One of the things that’s frustrating is that you can’t answer that question with 100% certainty, and I think over the years that’s come out, so I can’t answer that question. I don’t know if it was 100% clean and that’s because of things that have happened in the past."
A number of US journalists and pundits immediately rallied behind Murphy's 'indirect' accusation, with some even invoking... who else but Putin! as somehow behind the US swimmer's loss...
It really is appalling that Russia is allowed to compete in this games after being found guilty of state-sponsored doping. This "ROC" crap is totally fraudulent. Russia is a kleptocracy and Putin has no scruples. They don't deserve to be in the Olympics.https://t.co/7kOz3R3Lrn— Greg Pinelo (@gregpinelo) July 30, 2021
"How unnerving our victories are for [some]. Yes, we are here at the Olympics. Absolutely right. Whether people like it or not." it read in part. "But you have to be able to lose."
Further, Russian officials in response have denounced the politicization of the Olympic games, with Director of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, or SVR, Sergei Naryshkin cited in TASS as saying, "The sports world is tired of the biased and politicized pressure on Russian athletes."
"We believe that the sports world has grown tired of this politicized Western campaign against global sports, in particular, of the biased and politicized pressure on Russian athletes," he said.