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China have announced that reigning world champions will be eligible for Tokyo Olympics selection in a move that appears tailored towards disgraced swimmer Sun Yang.
Sun, a three-time Olympic champion, is fighting to save his career amid a long-running doping controversy.
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The 29-year-old is preparing for a new tribunal hearing over his refusal to give a doping sample when testers visited his home in September 2018.
Sun was suspended for the maximum of eight years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in February last year after refusing to give samples during a surprise doping test where a vial of his blood was smashed with a hammer.
But Switzerland's top court overturned the ban in December, in a surprise decision in which it said the CAS was guilty of bias.
As he prepares for a new tribunal hearing, Sun appears to have been given a huge lifeline in his bid to compete at the Tokyo Olympics.
On Thursday, the China Swimming Association laid out its eligibility requirements for the upcoming Games, saying all gold medallists at the 2019 world championships can participate.
That would appear to include Sun, however Chinese media reports the 29-year-old is not taking part in this week's Chinese championships and Olympic qualifiers in Quingdao.
The announcement sparked condemnation from fans around the world.
Sun Yang to face new tribunal over doping saga
The New York Times reported that Sun’s lawyers had successfully argued to the original Tribunal that the head of the CAS Panel had made public comments that expressed anti-Chinese sentiments.
Sun will re-appear before the tribunal from May 24-28, just two months before the Tokyo Olympics.
The 29-year-old has fiercely protested his innocence in the testing affair, claiming the inspectors did not produce documents proving their identities.
However it was not Sun's first doping controversy.
The swimmer was suspended for three months in 2014 after testing positive for the stimulant trimetazidine, in a case that was only made public after he had served most of the sentence.
Horton openly called Sun a drug cheat at the 2016 Olympics and refused to share the podium with him at the 2019 world championships.
Horton's actions were applauded by other swimmers but condemned by FINA.
The 1500m world-record holder, Sun won the 200m and 400m at the 2019 world championships in South Korea amid the scandal.
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