Murphy did not reveal the nature of the messages he and his loved ones had received, and a USA Swimming spokesperson did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
On Friday, following his silver medal swim in the men’s 200-meter backstroke at the Tokyo Olympics, Murphy answered a question about doping concerns in swimming by telling reporters, “It is a huge mental drain on me throughout the year to know that I’m swimming in a race that’s probably not clean. It frustrates me, but I have to swim the field that’s next to me. I don’t have the bandwidth to train for the Olympics at a very high level and try to lobby the people who are making the decisions that they’re making the wrong decisions.”
At the time, Murphy had just been beaten by Russian backstroker Evgeny Rylov in the 200 back, with Rylov adding that gold medal to the one he won earlier in the meet in the 100 back. Only two swimmers beat Murphy across two races in Tokyo: Rylov and his Russian teammate Kliment Kolesnikov, who earned silver in the 100 to Murphy bronze.
Russian athletes are competing in Tokyo under the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee, following sanctions placed on the country by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which in 2018 charged Russia with operating a state-sponsored doping program and imposed a four-year ban that would keep Russia and its athletes from competing in Tokyo.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport heard Russia’s appeal, reduced the ban to two years and allowed Russian athletes who were not implicated in the doping scandal to compete in Tokyo, though without “Russia” on their uniforms or under the Russian flag.
At a news conference following the 200 back, while seated next to Rylov, Murphy answered a question about whether the competition was clean by saying, “I think the thing that’s frustrating is that you can’t answer that question with 100-percent certainty. I don’t know if it was 100-percent clean. And that’s because of things that have happened over the past … There is a situation — and that’s a problem.”
The participation of Russian athletes in the Olympics has remained a sore subject among athletes from other countries. Following Friday’s 200 back final, Britain’s Luke Greenbank, who won the bronze medal behind Rylov and Murphy said, “Obviously, it’s frustrating as an athlete, having known that there’s a state-sponsored doping program going on, and feeling like maybe more could be done to tackle that.”
The Russian Olympic Committee responded to the comments by Murphy and Greenbank by releasing a caustic statement saying in part, “Yes, we are here at the Olympics. Absolutely. Like it or not … English-language propaganda, exhausting verbal sweat in the Tokyo heat. Through the mouths of athletes offended by defeats. We will not console you. Forgive those who are weaker. God is their judge.”
On Sunday, American breaststroker Lilly King, an outspoken voice on anti-doping concerns throughout her career, when asked whether Russia’s participation had colored her Olympic experience, replied, “I try not to think about that, but I also wasn’t racing anyone from a country who should have been banned and instead got a slap on the wrist and a rebranding of their national flag. I personally wasn’t affected, but Ryan was. There are a lot of [athletes] here who shouldn’t be here.”