Olympic swimming champion Kyle Chalmers has said widespread doping in the sport means he can’t trust half of his competitors, and said he was inspired by teammate Mack Horton’s stance against Sun Yang.
Speaking on the Phil Davis Podcast, Chalmers said the Australian swim team was firmly against doping, but its presence in the sport was widely recognised.
“There’s a lot of doping that goes on everywhere in swimming,” Chalmers said.
“You know it’s going on, and I know that I can probably not trust half of the guys I’m competing against.
“I know we as an Australian swim team are so obviously against it — look at Shayna Jack, she failed a drug test this year and she got a four-year ban just because we hate drug cheats in Australia.”
Fellow Olympic champion Horton made waves in 2019, when he refused to share a podium with Sun after he finished second to him in the 400 metres final at the world championships.
Horton has consistently taken a vocal stance against Sun, who he has labelled a “drug cheat” and is currently undergoing an eight-year doping suspension.
Chalmers said he admired Horton’s courage and supported him through the ensuing saga.
“For me, Mack standing up against Sun Yang and making a big announcement about it was inspiring,” he said.
“I supported Mack from afar. I wasn’t going to go into the media and stand against it, it’s a big thing to do. It takes a lot of courage and it was a very scary time for Mack.
“Now it’s completely turned the other way, the Chinese are supporting Mack and have turned on Sun Yang for being a liar and lying to them.”
Chalmers said while knowing some opponents are cheating is frustrating, it also steels him to perform better.
“For me, I just want to beat anyone on any given day,” he said.
“I don’t care what my competitors have in their system, I still want to be better than them.”
Chalmers also lifted the lid on life behind the curtain as an elite sprinter — who he says are the “alphas of the swimming world” — sharing details of the “mind games” that dominate competitive swimming.
“Sprinters are predominantly big, strong, muscly dudes and there’s always mind games,” he said.
“You hear stories of people getting into fights in the marshalling room. You have people death-staring, people walking around slapping themselves, a bit of spitting goes on at each other occasionally.
“It’s always ‘who’s strutting around with their chest out the biggest?’.
“I’m not like that at all, I’m quite reserved. I sit up the back of the marshalling room. I might do a bit of slapping out on the pool deck, but I have complete confidence in myself and my abilities so I find most of those things as unnecessary and kind of funny.”
The mind games can even permeate within a team, Chalmers said, telling of how a rivalry with fellow sprinter James Magnussen motivated him during his early days on the team.
“When I was breaking into the team, I stole James Magnussen’s spot and there was a bit of a rivalry there for a little bit, especially qualifying for Rio,” he said.
“He was saying some things in the media about me and that he didn’t see me as a threat — just mind games.
“James Magnussen made me grow as an athlete, and I would read that stuff in the media and use it as motivation and go ‘I don’t want this guy to beat me, and I’m going to do everything in my power to beat him’.
“Now we’re great mates, he’s retired and we chat all the time.”