refused to share the medal podium with his Chinese rival Sun Yang at the World Aquatics Championship in South Korea on Sunday.wimming’s international governing body, Fina, has warned Australian swimmer Mack Horton after he
Sun came in first and Horton second in the 400m freestyle at the event. However, Horton chose to stand behind the podium at the medal ceremony afterward, also refusing to shake Sun’s hand or pose for a photo with him.
“This is going to continue to brew over the next 12 months.”
Tensions were high on the men’s 400m free podium, Australian Mack Horton refused to stand next to Chinese swimmer Sun Yang who's facing allegations of doping rule violations that could result in a #Tokyo2020 ban pic.twitter.com/9QN1VfUln7
— CBC Olympics (@CBCOlympics) July 21, 2019
The snub comes as Sun is facing the prospect of a lifetime ban after allegedly smashing a vial of his blood with a hammer during a drug test last year. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Horton infamously labeled Sun a “drug cheat” because of a three-month suspension the Chinese swimming star served in 2014 after testing positive for a stimulant called trimetazidine.
Response from fellow swimmers, Fina, and China
Following what he did at the medal podium, Horton was reportedly greeted back at the athletes’ village with a “thundering ovation” from other swimmers, however, Fina is less pleased, issuing Horton an official warning.
“While Fina respects the principle of freedom of speech, it has to be conducted in the right context,” the governing body said.
“As in all major sports organizations, our athletes and their entourages are aware of their responsibilities to respect Fina regulations and not use Fina events to make personal statements or gestures.”
Meanwhile, Chinese net users have lashed out at Horton yet again, bombarding his Instagram account with vile insults and even death threats.
Sun is China’s most successful swimmer, winning three Olympic gold medals, two in London and one in Rio, not to mention various other accolades including now four consecutive world titles. The 27-year has cultivated the image of an emotionally vulnerable bad body, contributing to his rock star status in his own country.
A smashed blood vial
However, that status is in jeopardy at the moment over a “missed” drug test from last year.
The drug test wasn’t so much “missed” as abruptly aborted, according to a Sunday Times report from January which said that testers arrived at Sun’s home in China last September for a routine out-of-competition test, but that after drawing blood Sun disputed the accreditation of one of the nurses. A clash then ensued, ending with Sun’s mother directing his security guard to smash the vial of blood with a hammer.
Sun’s lawyer has dismissed the newspaper’s account of the events, accusing the Sunday Times of “malicious reporting” with intent to tarnish Sun’s reputation and violate his privacy. The Chinese Swimming Association has similarly stuck up for Sun, calling the report “fake news.”
Tasked with looking into the incident, FINA, the world’s swimming governing body, determined in January that it would “never know” the truth of what had happened and let Sun off with only a warning.
However, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has appealed this decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) which won’t hear the case until September. Sun’s team has pressed for a public trial, a result against Sun could result in him being permanently banned from the sport.