'It's a joke': Swimming Australia under fire over Mack Horton 'disgrace'

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor

Swimming Australia have vowed to fight for Mack Horton to be awarded Sun Yang’s gold medal from the 2019 world championships after being accused of ‘sitting on their hands’ in the face of the controversy.

On Friday Sun was handed an eight-year ban by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, however they were unable to strip him of his medals from the world championships because he was technically ‘clean’ at the time of the event.

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Sun was controversially cleared by FINA to take part at the event in 2019 despite having read a report that he smashed vials of his own blood during a doping test in 2018.

The decision to strip Sun of his medals now lies with FINA, with a number of high-profile Australian figures calling on swimming’s governing body to take action.

However Swimming Australia remained silent on the issue until late Monday, prompting an angry response from Tony Shaw - a former national coach and chairman of the Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association.

Mack Horton refused to take the podium with Sun Yang at the 2019 FINA World Championships. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The ASCTA issued a statement blasting FINA for allowing Sun to compete at the world championships last year, while Shaw hit out at Swimming Australia for not speaking up in support of Horton.

“It’s a joke that has to be sorted; not via emails and behind closed doors; we as an association representing the coaches demand action to taken  – it’s time to make Mack a world champion,” Shaw told Swimming World.

“We have not heard one word from Swimming Australia; not one word; why aren’t they doing something immediately in support of Mack and his coach Craig Jackson?

“Stop sitting on your hands and stir the pot. Mack and Craig should be recognised as not only an Olympic champion swimmer and coach but also now a World Champion swimmer and coach and with it the rewards - the gold medal and in this case the $20,000 FINA put up for a gold medal.”

Swimming Australia respond to criticism

The criticism prompted a response from Swimming Australia late on Monday, with chairman John Bertrand vowing to approach FINA about the issue once Sun has exhausted his right to appeal.

“On the basis the appeal is dismissed we will certainly be making representations with FINA to reconsider the issue of Mack’s medal from the world championships,’’ Bertrand told The Age.

“If his appeal is dismissed, we will certainly be championing this issue with FINA.”

Mack Horton at the 2019 FINA World Championships in South Korea. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

SA chief executive Leigh Russell said she would attempt to garner support from other swimming bodies.

“In the coming days and weeks we will take the opportunity to talk with our counterparts and also our athlete and coach leaders about the issues currently being raised regarding FINA and its systems, processes and governance, including their ability to reallocate the world championship medals,’’ she said in a statement.

“Following these discussions we expect conversations will be taking place between the federations and FINA on these critical issues.

“Right now, our focus is firmly on supporting our athletes in their preparation for Tokyo.”

FINA ‘open’ to taking Sun’s medals

On Sunday FINA vice-president Matt Dunn said the governing body was “open” to taking further action against Sun.

“I think the option [of stripping Sun of his medals] will be open,” Dunn told The Sydney Morning Herald.

"We supported the judgment of the FINA doping panel, and consequently we support the decision of the CAS.

“Really we wean to ensure the WADA code is enforced as best we can in order to ensure a drug-free playing field for clean athletes.”