‘Ryk and I used drugs’
Sapa and Shain Germaner
Olympic gold medalist Ryk Neethling today dismissed claims by his ex-girlfriend, American Olympic swimmer Amanda Beard, that they abused drugs during the time they were together.
Beard alleged while promoting her autobiography In the Water They Can’t See You Cry that ecstasy, cocaine and acid were taken during a two-month SA stay during which she met Neethling’s family.
“It should be noted that international athletes are subjected to frequent random drug tests in and out of competition,” was Neethling’s response to the allegations.
“I passed every one of the close-on 200 blood and urine tests I did during my career.”
He declined to comment further on the matter, media reports said.
Neethling, 34, is the first SA swimmer to compete in four successive Olympic Games. He holds the SA record in the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1 500m freestyle events, and recently held the 4×100m freestyle relay world record. The highlight of his career has been winning a gold medal in the 4×100m freestyle relay at the 2004 Summer Olympics.
Beard, 30, is a seven-time Olympic medalist and former world record holder in the 200m breaststroke. She is married to photographer Sacha Brown, and they have a two-year-old son.
This month she released her memoir in which she describes her path from the top of a sports and modelling career, through depression to her “newfound happiness that has proved to be her greatest victory”, says the book’s website.
The description of the book claims: “Her low self-esteem led to toxic relationships with high-profile men in the sports world.
“No one, not even her own parents and friends, knew about the turmoil she was going through.
“Only when she met her future husband, who discovered her cutting herself, did Amanda realise that she needed help.”
Some of the darker pages of the memoir involve her romance with Neethling. They met at the University of Arizona when she was a junior and he was a senior and began dating in 1999, and their relationship lasted until the 2004 Olympics.
She wrote in the biography that she would only get along with Neethling when she was using drugs. She also made claims that he was jealous of her athletic success, and their rocky relationship was littered with fighting, and said after one fight, she resorted to self-mutilation to calm herself.
“The thing about my book is it’s very raw, very honest,” Beard said in an interview with US newspaper The Indianapolis Star.
“It’s not a swimming book. There is a lot of swimming in it.
“But I think it relates a lot to young females, young athletes, moms, dads who have daughters.
“Plus, about different pressures that we go through in our life. It’s a roller coaster of a journey, and that you can still have success and somehow come out on the good side of things at the end. I wanted other females to know they weren’t alone.
“No matter where you are in life – people look at me and think I’ve had this great life, and I’ve had success in the pool and out of the pool – but there’s still a little dark side with everybody.”
Neethling, in his book Chasing the Dream, described his relationship with Beard as tempestuous.
Sascoc (SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee) medical commission chairman Dr Shuab Manjra this morning confirmed that Neethling’s history was unblemished and that he had a drug-free record.
“These are untested allegations… Our jurisdiction covers performance-enhancing drugs, but some recreational drugs (possible stimulants) would also be prohibited in competition.
“We have always tested our athletes… and Ryk has always passed,” said Manjra, also head of the SA Institute for Drug Free Sport.
Manjra has been unable to reach Neethling to speak to him about the latest claims.
Neethling, who now works at a luxury estate in the Western Cape, was not available for comment at the time of going to press.