Chinese swimmer Sun Yang banned for eight years but not stripped of medals after Cas overturns Fina decision to clear him of doping offence

Sun was accused of smashing the vials containing his blood after a row with a team of Fina drug-testers at his home in September 2018

Sun Yang
Chinese star Sun Yang has been banned for eight years Credit: AFP

There was outrage last night after Sun Yang was not stripped of any medals despite being banned for eight years over one of swimming’s worst drugs scandals.

The sport’s world governing body, Fina, was also accused of a “cover-up” after clearing one of its biggest stars only for sport’s highest court to emphatically quash its verdict on the extraordinary events that allegedly saw his blood samples smashed with a hammer during an out-of-competition test.

An eight-year ban, which Sun vowed to appeal to an even higher court, would effectively end the career of the first Chinese man to win an Olympic swimming title.

But the 28-year-old double London 2012 gold medallist, who also served a secret drugs ban in 2014, was allowed to keep all his medals – even those won after the September 2018 row with testers that allegedly led to his mother ordering a security guard to smash the blood samples he had provided.

They included two golds from July’s World Championships, at which Britain’s Duncan Scott and Australia’s Mack Horton both staged podium protests against him that saw them issued with formal warnings for bringing the sport into disrepute.

Scott finished joint-third behind Sun in the 200 metres freestyle and his refusal to shake hands with his opponent prompted the Chinese to confront the 22-year-old and proclaim: “You’re a loser. I’m a winner.”

Duncan Scott refused to shake gold medalist Sun Yang's hand at the World Swimming Championships in Gwangju, South Korea in 2019 Credit: AP

In announcing Sun’s ban on Friday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled the sanction should not be backdated, a decision that left British swimming icon Sharron Davies aghast.

She told the Daily Telegraph: “How unfair is that? To me, that seems outrageous when they know that this crime was committed in September of 2018.

“Fina should never have allowed him to compete when this was hanging over his head. To me, it’s a total injustice that that’s not been sorted out.”

Sun was only banned at all after the World Anti-Doping Agency appealed Fina’s controversial decision to clear him of wrongdoing.

Scott welcomed Friday's announcement in a statement which did not address the medal controversy.

“I fully respect and support the decision that has been made and announced by the Court of Arbitration for Sport,” he said. “I believe in clean sport and a level playing field for all athletes and I trust in Cas and Wada to uphold these values.”

Adam Peaty, who had backed Scott’s protest last year, was also “pleased” with the verdict. The Olympic 100m breaststoke champion and world record holder said: “I trust in Cas and Wada to uphold the values in the sport and I believe a ban was the right decision.

“I feel strongly about clean sport and I feel a responsibility as an athlete to be true to myself, my sport, my country and the next generation of athletes who look to us for inspiration.”

Davies, who was denied Olympic gold at the 1980 Games by East German doper Petra Schneider, took to Twitter yesterday to air her grievances. 

She later told Telegraph Sport: “It’s such a shame that we don’t have a stronger governing body. We knew in Rio, when they let the Russians compete when lots of other associations were standing up, that we just don’t have a federation that has the backbone to stop cheating.”

Davies said the “very least Fina can do is to apologise” to Scott and Horton for rebuking them over their podium protests. Fina failed to address its role in the scandal, issuing a short statement noting Cas's decision and pledging to “implement” it.

Friday's announcement also provoked outrage in China, but for very different reasons. Social media there was awash with messages of support for one of its biggest icons and anger at a decision branded anti-Chinese and designed to harm the country.

Sun himself told its state-run news agency, Xinhua: “This is unfair. I firmly believe in my innocence. I will definitely appeal to let more people know the truth.”

The usual route of appeal for decisions of the Lausanne-based Cas is to Switzerland’s supreme court, the Swiss Federal Tribunal, although Sun’s ban is expected to stand pending any such hearing.

He was originally charged after he refused to cooperate with three anti-doping officials who had travelled to his home in China.

He told what was a public Cas hearing in November that he did so because they had not proven their identity. He also denied a vial containing his blood was smashed with a hammer.

Sun was one of swimming’s biggest stars, winning three Olympic and 11 world titles, and had been among the favourites for gold again at Tokyo 2020.

He previously served a three-month ban in 2014 for taking prohibited stimulant Trimetazidine.

“The chances are that there are a lot of medals that should be returned to a lot of swimmers,” Davies said.

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