Fellow athletes have offered support to Australian swimmer Mack Horton for his boycott of the podium ceremony of a Chinese rival. Olympic winner Sun Yang is accused of cheating after he smashed up his own doping samples.
Top swimmers at the world championships in South Korea gave their backing to Australia's Mack Horton after he refused to take the podium at the medal ceremony of winning Chinese rival Sun Yang.
Horton finished second in the 400-meter freestyle race won by Sun Yang, who is accused of using unorthodox means to cheat his way through a doping test.
The triple Olympic Chinese swimmer is accused of smashing blood sample vials with a hammer after a doping test last year. The fact that he was allowed to compete at all in this year's world championships in South Korea has rankled with many rivals.
Australian swimmer Mitch Larkin backed his teammate Horton, who has in the past called Sun a "drugs cheat," for his decision not to take to the podium.
"I'm super-proud of Mack," said Larkin after the morning's 100m backstroke heats. "The whole Aussie team backs him 100 percent."
US swimmer Matt Grevers also gave his support to the Australian, saying many competitors did not trust Sun.
Sun acknowledged that Horton had a problem with him, but said that the boycotting of the ceremony was wrong.
"Disrespecting me was OK, but disrespecting China was unfortunate," Sun said.
Read more: Opinion: It's time for WADA to make a U-turn
If Sun is found guilty of breaking doping rules, he could face a lifetime ban having already served a three month suspension in 2014 for taking a banned stimulant. At the time, Sun claimed he was taking medication for a heart problem.
In other news from the championship, Italian swimmer Simone Sabbioni attempted his backstroke heat three separate times after a string of pool start equipment malfunctions.
On the first two occasions, Sabbioni's wedge — the angled block used by swimmers to push away at the start of heats — collapsed. On the third occasion, cheered on by a supportive crowd and racing against the clock in an otherwise empty pool, the 22-year-old was able to squeeze into the last of the qualifying spots.
rc/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)