As China’s top swimmer Sun Yang was handed an eight-year ban for a dope test violation, his Australian rival, who once called him a “drug cheat”, said his focus has always been about “clean sport”.
Mack Horton weighed in as Sun Yang vowed to appeal the ban from the court of arbitration for sport (CAS), which said the eight-year ban was imposed because the reigning world and Olympic 200m freestyle champion already had an earlier anti-doping rule violation against him from 2014.
“This is unfair. I firmly believe in my innocence,” Sun told Xinhua. “I will definitely appeal to let more people know the truth.”
After calling Sun a “drug cheat” at the Rio Games, silver medallist Horton refused to share the podium with the gold medal-winner in Gwangju last year.
Sun had won that race while competing under the shadow of an appeal for smashing vials containing blood samples taken at an out-of-competition test in September 2018.
Horton spoke to Channel Seven after learning of this latest sanction against Sun.
“I think regardless of the outcome, it was always going to be a statement to the world and my stance has always been about clean sport, never about nations or individuals,” Horton said.
The case has attracted huge interest in China, where Sun is currently training at the Zhejiang College of Sports in Hangzhou, and the swimming world.
A Fina report said Sun questioned the credentials of the testers before members of his entourage smashed the vials with a hammer.
Sun had argued during the CAS hearing, which was heard in public, that the testers failed to prove their identity and behaved in an unprofessional manner.
“The CAS panel unanimously determined, to its comfortable satisfaction, that the athlete violated Article 2.5 Fina DC (tampering with any part of doping control),” the CAS statement said.
“In particular, the panel found that the personnel in charge of the doping control complied with all applicable requirements as set out in the ISTI (International Standard for Testing and Investigation).
“More specifically, the athlete failed to establish that he had a compelling justification to destroy his sample collection containers and forego the doping control when, in his opinion, the collection protocol was not in compliance with the ISTI.”
The statement added that it was “one thing, having provided a blood sample, to question the accreditation of the testing personnel while keeping the intact samples in the possession of the testing authorities.
“It is quite another thing, after lengthy exchanges and warnings as to the consequences, to act in such a way that results in destroying the sample containers, thereby eliminating any chance of testing the sample at a later stage.”
The World Anti-Doping Agency welcomed the ruling as “a significant result” in a separate statement and said it was “satisfied that justice in this case has been rendered”.
Tens of thousands of Chinese flooded social media in support of Sun Yang following the verdict, stating it was “cruel” and “unjust”.
“Foreigners are jealous. It is really unfair to treat Sun Yang in this way. Since when did competitive sports become villain sports,” said one user called ‘Lingering memories’ on microblogging website Weibo Corp.