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Olympic champion swimmer Sun Yang gets eight-year doping ban

February 28, 2020

One of China's biggest sports stars, reigning Olympic champion swimmer Sun Yang, will miss the Tokyo Games after receiving an eight-year doping ban. The 28-year-old immediately said he will appeal against the decision.

Olympic swimming champion Sun Yang
Image: Getty Images/J. Finney

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled on Friday that China's three-time Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Sun Yang broke anti-doping rules in a late-night incident in which a blood sample container was smashed with a hammer. He will not be allowed to compete again until 2028.

CAS said in a statement that its panel unanimously determined "to its comfortable satisfaction" that Sun violated a FINA [international federation for watersports] code relating to tampering. The doping control personnel "complied with all applicable requirements" and Sun "failed to establish that he had a compelling justification to destroy his sample collection containers."

Sun immediately said he will appeal the verdict, telling China's Xinhua news agency that "this is unfair. I firmly believe in my innocence," before adding: "I will definitely appeal to let more people know the truth."

In the open court back in November, evidence was presented of how a security guard, on the instruction of Sun's mother, broke the casing around a vial of his blood. The swimmer used his mobile phone to shine a light on proceedings.

Sun became the first Chinese swimmer to win an Olympic gold in the London Games in 2012 and has since picked up two more gold medals, but controversy has never been far away.

After Sun had served a three-month doping-related ban in 2014, which contributed to the severity of his latest punishment, rivals branded him a drug cheat at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Then two of his competitors refused to stand with him on medal podiums at the 2019 World Championships. 

Friday's ruling came after FINA had previously only warned Sun about his conduct in relation to the incident. The swimmer looks set to miss the Tokyo Olympics, an appeal to Switzerland's supreme court seemingly his only remaining option. His lawyers have already had three federal appeals dismissed on legal process issues.

mp/mf (AFP, AP)

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