American great Ryan Lochte will bid along with other stars to give swimming a positive spin at this week’s World Short-Course (25m) Championships in Doha following an uncomfortable few weeks for the sport.
Last week it emerged that double Olympic and five-time world champion Sun Yang had failed a drugs test, which revealed the banned stimulant trimetazidine, back in May for which he received just a three-month ban.
There was also news of another Russian doping violation, months after sports minister Vitaly Mutko admitted the country was “on the brink” of being suspended from competition as the positive tests continue to mount.
In October world governing body FINA provoked a backlash when they awarded Russian president Vladimir Putin their highest honour – the FINA order – an act described by the German Bundestag as “tastelessly provocative”.
A proposal for the swimming finals at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro to be held late at night in order to satisfy television demands has also met with resistance.
Against this backdrop Olympic and world champions will take to the 25m pool at the Hamad Aquatic Centre from December 3-7.
Those competing include 11-time Olympic medallist Lochte and Olympic and world butterfly champion Chad le Clos as well as Florent Manaudou and Cesar Cielo, 2012 and 2008 Olympic 50m freestyle champions respectively.
Canadian Ryan Cochrane – runner-up behind Sun in the 1,500m freestyle at both the 2012 Olympics and 2013 World Championships in Barcelona – will also be in Qatar.
Katinka Hosszu set five world records during the 2014 World Cup series, her Herculean programme earning the Hungarian the nickname of the ‘Iron Lady’.
She will be joined by – among others – double 2012 Olympic freestyle champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo along with triple European and double Commonwealth champion Fran Halsall, former Olympic title-holder Federica Pellegrini and double Olympic and world silver medallist Mireia Belmonte.
A swimmer who made a staggering breakthrough on to the international stage in 2014 was British breaststroker Adam Peaty.
Still only 19, Peaty beat Olympic champion Cameron van der Burgh en-route to the 100m breaststroke title at the Commonwealth Games – one of three medals in Glasgow.
He then won four titles at the European Championships in Berlin, setting a new world record in the 50m as well as being one of the British mixed relay squad that set a new global mark.
Speaking days after Sun’s positive test emerged, Peaty told AFP: “I know it has been published really late and I don’t know what is going on there.
“I don’t really have a personal opinion on it but with drugs in general the penalties should be a lot more steep.
“I’m sure for people who are going to be racing him now that is going to be fuel for them to beat him.”
Peaty will renew acquaintance with Van Der Burgh as well as Hungarian 200m Olympic champion Daniel Gyurta, runner-up behind Le Clos in the World Cup series this autumn, and German European 200m title-holder Marco Koch.
“I am just going to go out there and fight as hard as I can and use my skills as much as I can and hopefully come back with quite a big PB (personal best) because I think my long course is faster than my short course.”
While Peaty is starting out on his senior international career, 30-year-old Lochte will be looking to add to the 30 world short-course medals he has already claimed including seven two years ago in Istanbul.
Lochte is enter in six individual events and spearheads a 36-strong United States team which features four women who are still at high school.
He told a teleconference: “Team USA – we are just going to do what we always do and go out there and try to prove to the world we are the best and just get it done so I am excited to go.” – Agence France-Presse