Controversial Chinese swimmer Sun Yang has been hit with an eight-year ban after being found guilty of a doping offence.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled on Friday night that Sun, a three-time Olympic freestyle champion, broke doping rules after smashing vials of his blood during a test.
Australian swimmer Mack Horton infamously refused to step on the podium with Sun at last year's world titles.
Sun copped the huge ban after he admitted to smashing vials of his blood two years ago at a test at his home in China in September 2018.
Wow. China’s most famous athlete Sun Yang gets eight year doping ban after WADA appealed decision by swimming’s governing body FINA to let him off pic.twitter.com/Ye271HBNam— tariq panja (@tariqpanja) February 28, 2020
Such action would usually result in a sanction but swimming's governing body FINA cleared Sun on a technicality.
The World Anti-Doping Agency appealed that decision to CAS, which heard the case last November.
Following the decision, WADA Director General Olivier Niggli said: “WADA decided to appeal the original FINA ruling having carefully reviewed it and having concluded that there were a number of points that seemed to be incorrect under the Code.”
“Today’s CAS ruling confirms those concerns and is a significant result.
“We will now need to take time to review the decision in full, and we will continue to review diligently all anti-doping decisions taken by Code Signatories to ensure they are in line with the Code and, when warranted, to exercise our independent right of appeal.”
CAS overrules FINA’s decision
A FINA report said Sun questioned the credentials of the testers before members of his entourage smashed vials containing his blood samples with a hammer.
In a rare hearing in open court in November, evidence was presented of how a security guard instructed by Sun's mother broke the casing around a vial of his blood, while the swimmer lit the early-hours scene with his mobile phone.
“The athlete failed to establish that he had a compelling justification to destroy his sample collection containers and forego the doping control when, in his opinion, the collection protocol was not in compliance,” the CAS panel of three judges agreed in a unanimous verdict.
China's greatest-ever swimmer, and one of its biggest sports stars, had asked CAS for the public trial.
A 10-hour hearing broadcast on the court's website showed Sun to be evasive at times under questioning that was hampered by severe translation issues between Chinese and English.
The CAS panel's verdict was delayed until all parties got a verified translation.
The two-metre tall Sun, the first Chinese swimmer to win Olympic gold, has long been a polarising figure in the pool.
Rivals branded him a drug cheat at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, and Horton and Britain's Duncan Scott refused to stand with him on medal podiums at the 2019 world championships.
Now banned until February 2028, the 28-year-old Sun cannot defend his 200-metre freestyle title in Tokyo.
The World Anti-Doping Agency went to CAS after a FINA tribunal only warned Sun.
The first ruling was that anti-doping protocol was not followed, making the samples invalid, and cited doubts about credentials shown to him by the sample collection team.
Sun can now appeal to Switzerland's supreme court, but on narrow procedural grounds.
His lawyers have already had three federal appeals dismissed on legal process issues.