'Concerned for their wellbeing': Disturbing claims of Sun Yang witness 'intimidation'

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor

Sun Yang’s ‘striking’ lack of remorse and ‘blatant intimidatory tactics’ have been revealed in an explosive 78-page report from the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Sun, a multiple world and Olympic champion, was banned by CAS for eight years last Friday for missing an out-of-competition test in 2018 in which a member of his entourage smashed a vial of the swimmer’s blood.

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On Thursday, CAS published their full report into the Sun case and exposed some troubling new information in the process.

In explaining why Sun was hit with the heaviest punishment available, CAS delivered a brutal assessment of the Chinese swimmer’s actions.

“The actions of the Athlete were wholly inappropriate,” the report reads.

“There was no justification, whether compelling or otherwise, for him to act as he did.”

Sun Yang in action at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Disturbing claims of witness intimidation

The report also lifts the lid on how Sun and his entourage allegedly tried to intimidate witnesses and manipulate their testimony.

The World Anti-Doping Authority - the body that appealed FINA’s decision to allow Sun to keep competing despite being aware of the vial-smashing drama - accused the Sun camp of getting in contact with drug testers on five separate occasions in the lead-up to his CAS trial in November.

In June a doping control officer and blood collection assistant said they had been contacted by Sun’s entourage and were “concerned for their physical and economic wellbeing, and for the wellbeing of their family members”.

They allegedly reported being “fearful that, if they would agree to testify in this proceeding, they would suffer significant retaliation in some form from the (athlete) and/or his entourage and supporters”.

WADA reported two more “acts of intimidation” in September and October “taken against the blood collection assistant in this case, an act that WADA believes was taken by someone closely connected to this proceeding and intended to influence whether or how the blood collection assistant might testify”.

WADA also claimed that after the trial ended in December, Sun’s mother released a video of the blood collection assistant and doping control officer, while alleging that Sun had also attacked the doping control officer on social media.

Sun and FINA both denied all of the allegations.

Sun Yang looks on at his public hearing before the Court of Arbitration for Sport. (Photo by JEAN-GUY PYTHON/AFP via Getty Images)

Sun criticised for actions at trial

The ‘intimidation’ tactics aren’t believed to have factored into CAS’ judgement, however they did detail how Sun failed to show a single shred of remorse.

“It was striking that, in the course of his testimony, at no point did the Athlete express any regret as to his actions, or indicate that, with the benefit of hindsight, it might have been preferable for him to have acted differently,” CAS said.

“Rather, as the proceedings unfolded, he dug his heels in and, eventually, sought to blame others for the manifest failings that occurred.

“He sought to shift the blame to the DCO, the BCA and the DCA, and at no point, in the appreciation of the Panel, did he confront the possibility that he might have overreacted in his actions.”

New information also emerged about Sun’s actions on the night of the doping test.

“Having refused to allow the sample collection process to be completed, he decided to take matters into his own hands by destroying a blood container, tearing up the Doping Control Form and refusing to let the DCO (doping control officer) leave his house with the blood samples,” the report says.

“The Athlete and his support staff were – or should have been - mindful that serious consequences could follow in case the blood sample collection process was prematurely ended without compelling justification.

“Nonetheless, he and they persisted in obtaining control of the blood samples with a view to destroying them. It is one thing, having provided a blood sample, to question the accreditation of the testing personnel while keeping intact the samples in the hands of the testing authorities while awaiting the next procedural step(s).

“It is quite another thing, after lengthy exchanges and warnings as to the consequences, to act in such a way that results in one of your bodyguards destroying the sample containers, with the consequence that the possibility of proceeding to test the sample is eliminated.”

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

Sun Yang vows to appeal ban

Sun came out swinging on Saturday, threatening legal action of his own as he attempts to salvage his broken career.

It is the 28-year-old's second ban for doping, having served three months in 2014, and he said in the immediate aftermath that he would appeal at the Swiss federal court.

A lawyer for Sun, a hugely popular figure in China, issued a fiery statement on Saturday reiterating that he will appeal, based on “a series of procedural errors”.

“February 28, 2020 was a dark day. It shows the scene where evil defeats justice and power replaces self-evident truths,” Beijing lawyer Zhang Qihuai said in a statement.

“On this day, CAS listened to prejudice, turned a blind eye to rules and procedures, turned a blind eye to facts and evidence, and accepted all lies and false evidence.”

The statement reasserted Sun's defence that doping officials who came to his home were not qualified or authorised, and it was they who decided not to pursue testing.

Sun will sue a doping inspector who gave “false evidence”, said the lawyer, also accusing the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) of “distorting facts and abuse of power”.

with agencies