Sun Yang’s doping ban of 8 years lifted for retrial

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A Swiss court lifted an eight-year doping ban against Chinese swimmer Sun Yang and ordered the case back to the Court of Arbitration for Sport for a second time but with a different chairman of the judges.

In February, CAS found the three-time Olympic champion guilty of refusing to cooperate with sample collectors during a visit to his home in September 2018 that turned confrontational. WADA brought the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport after world swimming governing body FINA had issued the now 29-year-old Yang with a warning and no suspension.

Again at stake in a second CAS hearing will be Yang’s chance to compete at the pandemic-delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics now set for July 2021.

The Swiss court ruling appears to have swung on an objection by Sun’s lawyers to the chairman of the three-judge panel, former Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini.

On Wednesday, WADA said in a statement that it had been informed of a decision by the Swiss Federal Tribunal to uphold an application by Yang and to set aside the original February ruling.

“In the CAS award, WADA clearly prevailed on the substance of the case as it was able to show that there were a number of aspects of the original FINA decision that were incorrect under the World Anti-Doping Code,” according to the statement. “WADA will take steps to present its case robustly again when the matter returns to the CAS Panel, which will be chaired by a different president (chairman).”

A clash between Frattini and Sun was one of the most dramatic moments in a 10-hour CAS hearing in Montreux, Switzerland in November 2019 that was a rare instance of a CAS process held in open court and live-streamed online. The hearing ended with Sun surprising his own legal team by waving his arms and calling another translator from the public seats to better articulate his closing statement.

“Who is this guy?” asked an incredulous Frattini. “It is not up to you to appear before the court. There are some rules.”

Frattini has upset Yang and his legal team for a series of past tweets, including one from April 23, 2019 that read: “Those horrible sadic chinese are the shame of mankind !! For how they torture animals they deserve the evil every day! And the chinese authorities tolerate and encourage.”

Sun’s challenge to Frattini at federal court followed a pattern of objecting to lawyers involved in the case.

A typical CAS hearing allows each side to select one of the three judges on the panel, and the swimmer’s legal team persistently objected to WADA’s original choice of Michael Beloff from England.

Beloff, a veteran and in-demand CAS judge, eventually stepped aside from the case “solely to assist in an expeditious hearing, and not because the challenge had any merit whatsoever,” the CAS ruling in February stated.

Sun’s team also tried to have WADA’s lead prosecutor, Colorado-based Richard Young, removed from the case for alleged conflict of interest because he previously worked for swim body FINA.

Young, who previously prosecuted doping cases involving Lance Armstrong and Marion Jones, stayed on the case.

Very few cases, at a rate of about one per year that includes around 400 arbitration and appeal processes, are successful at the Swiss tribunal.

It is even possible to overturn a CAS verdict in the federal court and still lose the retrial. That happened to tennis player Guillermo Canas of Argentina in 2007.

Canas was initially banned for two years by the ATP Tour’s anti-doping tribunal, and saw that reduced to 15 months at CAS. When Canas went to federal court, Swiss judges ruled his right to be heard had been breached and sent back the case. A second CAS hearing also applied a 15-month ban.

The most vivid detail of the evidence submitted at the Yang’s November 2019 CAS hearing was a blood sample rendered useless for testing by a hammer blow.

The hearing was reminded of how a security guard instructed by Sun’s mother broke the casing around the vial to ensure the blood could not be used for anti-doping tests.

“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,” the CAS panel of three judges agreed in an unanimous verdict announced in February.

Immediately, Sun said he planned to appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal, which is Switzerland’s highest court. That move proved to be successful this week, setting the scene for another CAS hearing ahead of the Tokyo Olympics and ensuring the case involving a controversial 2018 doping test continues into at least 2021.

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. CAS determined the hammer incident to be his second violation, thus a stiffer penalty.

Only Michael Phelps owns more individual swimming world titles than Sun. His 11 are tied with Katie Ledecky. Sun is the only swimmer to win both an Olympic 200m freestyle and an Olympic 1500m free, an event that the women will contest for the first time in Tokyo.

Sun won the 200m free and 400m free at the 2019 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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U.S. women’s basketball team, statistically greatest ever, rolls to FIBA World Cup title

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The revamped U.S. women’s basketball team may have been the greatest of all time.

The Americans completed, statistically, their most dominant global championship ever by routing China 83-61 in the FIBA World Cup final on Saturday in Sydney — giving them 60 consecutive wins between the Olympics and worlds dating to 2006.

It marked the largest margin of victory in a World Cup final since the event converted from a fully round-robin format in 1983.

For the tournament, the U.S. drubbed its opponents by an average of 40.75 points per game, beating its previous record between the Olympics and worlds of 37.625 points from the 2008 Beijing Games. It was just off the 1992 U.S. Olympic men’s Dream Team’s legendary margin 43.8 points per game. This U.S. team scored 98.75 points per game, its largest at worlds since 1994.

“We came here on a mission, a business trip,” tournament MVP A’ja Wilson said in a post-game press conference before turning to coach Cheryl Reeve. “We played pretty good, I think, coach.”

Since the U.S. won a seventh consecutive Olympic title in Tokyo, Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles retired. Tina Charles ceded her national team spot to younger players. Brittney Griner was detained in Russia (and still is). Diana Taurasi suffered a WNBA season-ending quad injury that ruled her out of World Cup participation (who knows if the 40-year-old Taurasi will play for the U.S. again).

Not only that, but Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach, implementing a new up-tempo system.

“There was probably great concern, and maybe around the world they kind of looked at it and said, ‘Hey, now is the time to get the USA,'” Reeve said Saturday.

The U.S. response was encapsulated by power forward Alyssa Thomas, the oldest player on the roster at age 30 who made the U.S. team for the first time in her career, started every game and was called the team’s glue and MVP going into the final.

Wilson and Tokyo Olympic MVP Breanna Stewart were the leaders. Guard Kelsey Plum, a Tokyo Olympic 3×3 player, blossomed this past WNBA season and was third in the league’s MVP voting. She averaged the most minutes on the team, scored 15.8 points per game and had 17 in the final.

“The depth of talent that we have was on display,” Reeve said. “What I am most pleased about was the trust and buy-in.”

For the first time since 1994, no player on the U.S. roster was over the age of 30, creating a scary thought for the 2024 Paris Olympics: the Americans could get even better.

“When you say best-ever, I’m always really cautious with that, because, obviously, there are great teams,” Reeve said when asked specifically about the team’s defense. “This group was really hard to play against.”

Earlier Saturday, 41-year-old Australian legend Lauren Jackson turned back the clock with a 30-point performance off the bench in her final game as an Opal, a 95-65 victory over Canada for the bronze. Jackson, who came out of a six-year retirement and played her first major tournament since the 2012 Olympics, had her best scoring performance since the 2008 Olympics.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

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The U.S. women’s basketball team won its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headlined a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, included neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team had nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 60 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The U.S. beat China in the final, while host Australia took bronze to send 41-year-old Lauren Jackson into retirement.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), wasn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule, Results

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium 85, Bosnia and Herzegovina 55 Group A
11:30 p.m. Serbia 81, Mali 68 Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA 145, South Korea 69 Group A
2 a.m. France 67, Japan 53 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 95, Puerto Rico 60 Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia 75, Canada 72 Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 92, South Korea 73 Group A
11:30 p.m. China 81, Belgium 55 Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA 121, Bosnia and Herzegovina 59 Group A
2 a.m. Canada 88, Mali 65 Group B
3:30 a.m. Serbia 68, France 62 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 71, Japan 54 Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. USA 88, Serbia 55 Quarterfinals
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Canada 79, Puerto Rico 60 Quarterfinals
4 a.m. China 85, France 71 Quarterfinals
6:30 a.m. Australia 86, Belgium 69 Quarterfinals
Fri., Sept. 30 3 a.m. USA 83, Canada 43 Semifinals
5:30 a.m. China 61, Australia 59 Semifinals
11 p.m. Australia 95, Canada 65 Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. USA 83, China 61 Gold-Medal Game