Sun Yang, China’s controversial swimming superstar, was banned eight years in a doping case stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018.
Sun, who owns 14 combined Olympic and world titles between the 200m and 1500m freestyles, received the ban from a Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling on Friday. He is appealing to a Swiss federal court, according to Xinhua News Agency.
The World Anti-Doping Agency, seeking a suspension, had appealed the international swimming federation’s original punishment of a warning but no ban over the hammer incident.
In a September 2018 clash with drug testers, a security guard from Sun’s entourage destroyed a container with a vial of the swimmer’s blood sample with a hammer. Sun said the testers didn’t have proper identification.
In announcing the ban, a court panel unanimously determined that the personnel in charge of the doping control complied with all applicable requirements.
Sun “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,” according to a press release.
“It is 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,” according to the release. “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.”
Sun pushes back on ruling
Sun called the ruling “unfair,” according to Xinhua.
“I firmly believe in my innocence,” Sun said, according to the report. “I will definitely appeal to let more people know the truth.”
WADA, which sought a ban of two to eight years, said it was satisfied that “justice has been rendered.”
“WADA decided to appeal the original FINA ruling having carefully reviewed it and having concluded that there were a number of points that seemed to be incorrect under the Code,” WADA director Olivier Niggli said in a statement. “Today’s CAS ruling confirms those concerns and is a significant result.”
Sun was previously suspended three months in 2014 for a banned stimulant, though the punishment wasn’t announced by Chinese officials until after he served the time. The court determined the hammer incident to be his second violation, thus a stiffer penalty.
None of Sun’s Olympic or world championships medals are being stripped. The 28-year-old remains China’s most decorated swimmer with six medals between the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.
Sun in rare company for success
Only Michael Phelps owns more individual swimming world titles. Sun’s 11 are tied with Katie Ledecky. Sun is the only swimmer to win both an Olympic 200m free and an Olympic 1500m free, an event that the women will contest for the first time in Tokyo.
Sun won the 200m and 400m free at last summer’s worlds in South Korea. There, freestylers Mack Horton of Australia and Duncan Scott of Great Britain refused to stand on the podium with Sun and shake his hand, respectively, at separate victory ceremonies.
After the latter, Sun turned to bronze medalist Scott, pointed a finger in his face and told him, “You’re a loser, I’m a winner.”
Horton called Sun a “drug cheat” at the Rio Olympics. Scott said he was “Team Mack,” according to the BBC.
“If [Sun] can’t respect our sport then why should I respect him?” Scott said, according to the report.
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