Sun Yang’s Australian coach speaks out amid podium protest echoes

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Sun Yang‘s Australian coach, Denis Cotterell, reportedly said that those who call the controversial Chinese swimmer a doper are being hypocrites.

“What is the definition of a drug cheat?” Cotterell, who guided Australian swimmers for decades before being hired to work with Chinese swimmers more than a decade ago, said, according to the Australian. “Someone who has failed a test? By that definition, they have got drug cheats on the Australian team. I have been on teams where people have failed a drug test, accidentally and through no fault of their own. I would never call them cheats. It seems to be very hypocritical.”

Sun, who owns 11 individual world titles (second only to Michael Phelps), faced podium protests from Australian silver medalist Mack Horton and British bronze medalist Duncan Scott after winning the 400m and 200m freestyles at the world championships in Gwangju, South Korea, this week.

Neither Horton nor Scott would shake Sun’s hand or pose for the traditional post-medal ceremony photos. Horton, the Rio 400m free champion who called Sun a “drug cheat” at those Games, stood behind the podium rather than on it during the Chinese anthem. All three swimmers were issued warnings by FINA.

Sun is in the midst of his second known doping controversy.

First, in 2014, he was banned three months after testing positive for a banned stimulant that he said he took for years to treat an existing heart problem. The stimulant was added to the banned list that year. The length of the ban was not so much a major issue, given the circumstances, but that it wasn’t announced until after he had served it.

Then this March, the British newspaper the Sunday Times reported incidents involving Sun when a doping control official visited his home in China last September. A vial of Sun’s blood was reportedly smashed with a hammer, and his entourage disputed the official’s credentials.

Sun “noticed during the test that one of the unauthorized officers was secretly filming him without his permission,” said a statement from Sun’s lawyers.

The dispute continued beyond 11 p.m., and his request for replacement officials from Swedish-based collection agency International Doping Tests and Management was denied, his lawyers claimed. “The officers then decided to stop the testing and gave the blood samples back to Sun Yang,” the statement said.

FINA issued Sun a warning. The World Anti-Doping Agency appealed for a stricter punishment to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The court set the hearing for after the world championships in September, which rankled other swimmers as Sun competes at worlds in the meantime.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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