Chinese swimmer Sun Yang dealt huge Olympics blow in new doping ruling

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Shown here, Chinese swimmer Sun Yang poses with a gold medal around his neck.
The latest doping ruling by CAS rules Sun Yang out of the Tokyo Olympic Games. Pic: Getty

Controversial Chinese swimmer Sun Yang has been banned from competing at the Tokyo Olympic Games after a new doping ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Sun was handed a backdated ban of four years and three months for violating anti-doping rules, with CAS handing out its punishment after a high-profile three-day retrial.

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The reigning world and Olympic 200-metre freestyle champion's suspension was backdated to February 28, 2020 - making him eligible to compete at the Paris Olympic Games in 2024 when Sun will be 32.

The 1500m freestyle world record-holder appeared to have no hope of making it to the Olympics after the Lausanne-based CAS banned him for eight years in February last year for refusing to give a sample following an incident in which a member of his entourage smashed a vial containing Sun's blood when doping inspectors visited his home.

However, the 29-year-old Sun appealed and Switzerland's federal supreme court overturned the career-ending punishment last December over alleged bias against the swimmer, who remains a huge star in China.

The swimmer is a hugely divisive figure in the sport and has had a longstanding rivalry with Aussie Olympic champion Mack Horton both in and out of the pool.

Australia's Mack Horton is pictured on the podium alongside Sun Yang at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Australia's Mack Horton pipped his bitter rival Sun Yang to gold in the 400m freestyle at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Pic: Getty

Horton's antipathy towards his rival bubbled to the surface at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, where the Australian blasted Sun as a "drug cheat" before pipping him to gold in the 400m freestyle.

The usually steely Sun broke down in tears.

He hit back to win the 200m but not before French swimmer Camille Lacourt caused another storm by declaring, in a nod to Sun's 2014 doping ban: "Sun Yang pisses purple."

Then, at an ill-tempered 2019 world championships, Horton refused to pose for pictures with Sun on the medal podium, a protest repeated by Britain's Duncan Scott.

That enraged Sun, who shouted "I win, you loser" at Scott, in angry scenes rarely seen in swimming.

Sun Yang is seen here confronting Duncan Scott at the 2019 swimming world championships.
Sun Yang famously confronted Duncan Scott at the 2019 swimming world championships in South Korea. Pic: Getty

Sun, who was banned for three months in 2014 for a separate doping offence, has always protested his innocence in the murky events surrounding the most recent incident in September 2018.

The reigning 200m freestyle Olympic champion, as well as an 11-time world champion, argued that the doping testers were not qualified or authorised when they came to take his sample.

Third Olympics ruled out for Sun

But CAS said a new panel, installed after the Swiss federal decision, "found to its comfortable satisfaction" that Sun had committed two anti-doping rule violations when an unsuccessful attempt was made to collect blood and urine samples at his residence in September 2018.

Sun was found guilty of "evading, refusing or failing to submit to sample collection by an athlete" and "tampering or alleged tampering with any part of doping control by an athlete or other person".

International swimming federation FINA said it "acknowledges the decision" by CAS.

"FINA will enforce the CAS award according to its terms, and in accordance with its obligations as a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Code," it said.

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The Chinese Swimming Federation had specified that athletes who won at the 2019 world championships in Gwangju would be "automatically qualified" for the July 23-August 8 Tokyo Games.

Sun, who won world titles in the 200m and 400m freestyle, met the criteria and would therefore have qualified for Tokyo if the ban had been overturned.

But those doubts have now been erased. The swimmer's ban expires just before the start of the 2024 Paris Olympics, when Sun will be 32.

The only child of an athletic family, Sun announced himself to the wider public at the world championships in Shanghai in 2011. Aged 19, he shattered Grant Hackett's long-standing 1500m freestyle world record and also won the 800m.

Sun grabbed two more golds at the London 2012 Olympics, again setting a new mark in the 1500m - a record that still stands.

with AFP

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