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FINA supported Sun Yang against potential ban in doping case

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GENEVA (AP) — International swimming authorities worked to protect three-time Olympic champion a Sun Yang ban from the sport in a doping case, according to a Swiss supreme court document.

A verdict in the case against the Chinese swimmer is expected within days from the Court of Arbitration for Sport. But a federal court document shows that swimming governing body FINA supported arguments by Sun’s lawyers to have an appeal by the World Anti-Doping Agency thrown out early last year in a pre-trial dispute over an alleged conflict of interest for the agency’s lead prosecutor, American lawyer Richard Young.

The swimmer’s lawyers appealed to the Swiss Federal Tribunal, which dismissed their procedural objections weeks before a rare public hearing held by CAS last November.

“In the course of the proceedings, the swimmer and FINA raised a plea of inadmissibility because of the allegedly late filing of the (WADA) appeal brief,” said the Swiss federal ruling, dated Oct. 28.

Had Young, who previously prosecuted doping cases involving Lance Armstrong and Marion Jones and is based in Colorado, been considered ineligible for the case because of his past work for FINA, the WADA appeal could have technically missed its deadline and allowed CAS to decline jurisdiction.

Instead, Young stayed on the WADA team for the public hearing.

Sun is facing a ban of up to eight years for his alleged refusal to provide blood and urine in September 2018 in a visit by sample collectors to his home in China. WADA appealed after a FINA tribunal merely warned Sun and cited doubts about credentials shown by three sample collection officials.

FINA has faced criticisms in the past, including from some top swimmers, for favoring Sun during his career. It did not announce Sun’s three-month ban for doping imposed by Chinese authorities until after it ended in 2014.

The Lausanne-based FINA declined to comment on attempts to remove Young and stop WADA’s case. Young did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Months before the public hearing by CAS, Sun’s lawyers and FINA asked Young to stand down from the case because of a possible conflict of interest. Young had resigned from FINA’s legal commission in February 2019 to free himself for WADA’s appeal, the federal court document stated.

The open-door doping hearing in Montreux, Switzerland, was streamed live for 10 hours on the CAS website.

Neither previous procedural appeal — judged by CAS in July and the federal court in October — was aired in the doping hearing when the sample collection incident was examined. During the late-night confrontation, a security guard eventually used a hammer to smash a container holding a vial of Sun’s blood as the swimmer lit the scene with his mobile phone.

“That is pretty sensational,” Young said three months ago in court. “But he (Sun) was nailed on a tampering violation before any of that happened.”

Sun has denied any wrongdoing. Any ban imposed in the coming days would likely prevent him defending his 200m freestyle title at the Tokyo Olympics.

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Olympic, world champion swimmers sue FINA

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Three Olympic and world champion swimmers filed an antitrust suit in California challenging governing body FINA’s control of organizing competitions.

The legal action by Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu and Americans Tom Shields and Michael Andrew follows Switzerland-based FINA shutting down an independent meet in Italy with threats to ban competitors.

The planned event in Turin involved organizers of a proposed International Swimming League (ISL), which aims to operate outside FINA’s control and pay higher prize money.

Lawyers in San Francisco say the swimmers “believe a professional league that will compensate its best athletes and better reward them for a lifetime’s worth of hard training and sacrifice is long overdue.”

The lawyers say ISL organizers filed a separate and simultaneous suit against FINA for “anticompetitive conduct.”

It’s the latest challenge to Olympic sports bodies by athletes seeking greater prize money and a voice in running their sport.

In a similar case last year, Dutch speed skaters won a European Union ruling against the Swiss-based International Skating Union.

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Swim meet canceled after FINA’s threat to ban athletes

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GENEVA (AP) — Amid growing conflict between swimmers and their world governing body, an international swimming meet was canceled on Thursday after threats to ban athletes who took part seeking better prize money.

The Italian swim federation called off the Dec. 20-21 competition it was organizing in Turin, saying it acted to protect athletes from FINA.

The Turin meet was linked to a proposed International Swimming League, a privately run operation which aims to operate outside FINA’s control and pay higher prize money.

“FINA declared the event ‘non-approved,’ threatening sanctions against the participating athletes,” Italian officials said in a statement.

FINA, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some Olympic champions have long criticized FINA, believing swimmers should be better rewarded, have more say in decisions, and could create their own union.

Olympic champion Adam Peaty of Britain wrote on Thursday on Twitter he was “incredibly disappointed” by the cancellation.

The politics involved will “galvanize swimmers, not break them,” wrote Peaty, who holds 50m and 100m breaststroke world records.

Peaty has previously supported Hungarian star Katinka Hosszu in her public criticism of FINA, and calls to create a swimmers’ union.

Italian organizers said Peaty, Hosszu and other Olympic champions including Chad le Clos of South Africa and Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden were due to take part in their 25-meter pool event. It was scheduled days after the short-course world championships being staged in Hangzhou, China.

The clash of events seemed to provoke FINA into finding more prize money for its worlds event in the smaller pool.

On Nov. 6, FINA added to its promised prize fund for China by almost doubling the total to $2.07 million.

FINA wrote to member federations on Oct. 30 warning of bans of up to two years for taking part in Turin.

However, a European Commission decision last year suggests swimmers could successfully challenge any attempt to limit their right to race and earn money.

The European Union’s executive arm ruled the International Staking Union in breach of anti-trust laws by threatening severe bans for speed skaters who wanted to compete in a South Korean-organized event in Dubai.

The ISU’s threats “also serve to protect its own commercial interests,” the European officials said.

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