U.S. swimming coach backs anti-doping protests: 'Clean athletes have the voice that really matters'

U.S. swimming coach Bob Bowman is more than ready for anti-doping reform in the sport. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Michael Phelps was drug tested regularly throughout his incredible swimming career, which produced 23 Olympic gold medals over five Olympic Games.

Despite the repeated testing Phelps — and countless other athletes underwent — doping throughout the sport is still as prevalent as ever.

U.S. swimming coach Bob Bowman is more than ready for that to change.

“I think we're to a point where everyone knows something has to change with doping,” Bowman said Thursday, via USA Today. “That's with all sports, Olympic sports in particular. When prominent athletes speak up, that's when real change can happen. I certainly think that they have every right to speak up. It's the best way to stop doping.”

A pair of protests at the world championships

Bowman stood by British swimmer Duncan Scott and Australian swimmer Mack Horton, too, after they each refused to take the medal stand with China’s Sun Yang at the 2019 World Aquatics Championships in South Korea this week.

Horton, who finished second to Sun in the 400-meter freestyle, called him a “drug cheat” and refused to stand next to him on the podium on Monday. Scott followed suit the next day after finishing in third in the 200-meter freestyle, and refused to shake Sun’s hand.

Sun, who took gold in both events, confronted Scott after their medal ceremony and could be seen on video yelling in his face.

Sun, per USA Today, has been accused of smashing a vial of his blood with a hammer after they were collected by drug testers at his home last year. The three-time Olympic gold medalist was suspended in 2014 for three months for taking a banned heart medication, too.

The International Swimming Federation has since issued official warnings to both Horton and Scott over their protests.

Bowman, though, stood by the swimmers’ actions.

“For a lot of those years, our approach was to look the other way on that and focus on (winning),” Bowman said, via USA Today. “We tried to be as good as we could be clean and know that maybe we had to be twice as good as the cheaters.”

After all, he said, the athletes who compete clean are the ones who can truly make a difference in the sport.

“The clean athletes have the voice that really matters,” Bowman said, via USA Today. “Without them, nothing is really going to change.”

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