Swimming: Lauren Boyle sympathetic for Russian athletes

By David Leggat

Lauren Boyle. Photo / Greg Bowker
Lauren Boyle. Photo / Greg Bowker

Top New Zealand swimmer Lauren Boyle has some sympathy for Russian athletes who have been forced into a systematic state-run doping programme.

Speaking on the day when sports organisations are unifying in their call for a complete ban on Russia attending the Rio Olympics in the wake of the McLaren report into doping in Russia before and since the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, Boyle was reluctant to add her voice to those wanting Russia thrown out.

''There are a lot of athletes in swimming and other sports in the Olympics who have tested positive and been allowed to come back," she said.

''I'm not sure what a blanket ban for Russia would mean. A structured doping programme a country has run is pretty crazy, and horrible to hear about.

''It's also horrible for those individual athletes in Russia who have been pushed into that programme.

''It's like they are going to cop so much in their lives because of a government decision."

Boyle, who won't be facing any significant threats from Russian swimmers in her 400m and 800m freestyle events in Rio, said she never discussed with other athletes who may be doping, or her rivals who might be taking illegal substances ''because I think it takes away from my own confidence.

''I don't want to line up on the blocks and think someone has an advantage over me.

''People definitely talk about it. If you have a doping ban in swimming you're thought of differently than if you haven't.

''Sometimes it's a legitimate mistake when someone's had a contaminated substance, but a lot of the time it's not."

Boyle leaves New Zealand bound for Rio on Thursday with the other eight swimmers in the Olympic squad.

She's hoping to knock a bad case of the flu on the head.

It has set back her training programme over the last week and a half. She will arrive in Rio among the more fancied swimmers in her events, on the back of her three-medal winning performance at the world championships in Kazan last year.

''I was going really well then I got really sick and missed the last part of my hard work phase before I go into my taper. Now I'm thinking what the hell, I'm really upset and disappointed.

''It's forced me to reflect on what I was doing. Before I got sick I was picking holes in my preparation. Now I'm thinking I should have been a lot more grateful for how it's going.

''It's reminded me to trust what I have been doing and try and do what I can with what I've got."

- NZ Herald

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