Internet Olympic Battles: USA’s King vs. Russia’s Efimova

The United States and Russia are superpowers and have potential and actual conflicts in various realms. And the Olympics are no exception when it comes to conflicts between the two countries. Let’s set the stage:

At first, it appeared the International Olympic Committee was going to ban all Russian athletes from competing in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games because of doping concerns. Indeed, the World Anti-Doping Agency issued a report that concluded that dozens of Russian athletes were doping during the Winter 2014 Sochi Olympic games, and on top of that, the Russian government had been complicit in a cover up of that doping scandal. 

Then, there were suspicions that Russian athletes were doping in advance of the Rio 2016 games. In the wake of all of this, there were calls from various countries, including the United States, to ban all Russian athletes from the 2016 Rio summer games. Nevertheless, the International Olympic Committee decided not to ban all Russian athletes, as requested.

Now that the stage has been set — enter Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova. She has been allowed to participate in Rio, despite prior drug testing issues. That’s right — Efimova was one of seven Russian swimmers initially banned by the IOC from Rio competition for having failed previous drug tests. But, for some reason, the IOC lifted her ban, and she was allowed to compete as the favorite to win gold in the 100 meter breaststroke event.

Enter American Lilly King, who posted the best semifinal 100 meter breaststroke time in her particular heat. Before that, she viewed on a television screen Efimova win her own heat, with Efimova celebrating right after with a number one finger gesture. King reacted immediately, with her own finger wag at Efimova on the screen.

After winning her heat, King said this about Efimova’s behaviors: “You know, you’re shaking finger number one and you’ve been caught for drug cheating. Just not a fan.”

Enter the internet — King’s own finger wag back at Efimova and her quote rapidly made her a Twitter star — with many King fans backing her up.

The 100 meter breastroke final will take place shortly after the writing of this blog. If King wins, there will be many who believe that hard work beat doping; and if Efimova wins, some will argue that Efimova won unfairly based on doping.

Either way, King has had her moment of internet fame, and issues between the United States and Russia continue in other realms.

Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod’s columns, please email him at with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s law firm or its individual partners.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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