Australian Mack Horton won’t have to worry about Sun Yang at the Tokyo Olympics with the Chinese swimming star banned from the Games for doping.
This time, however, Sun Yang’s ban is less likely to end the three-time Olympic champion’s career.
A new panel of judges at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) banned the 29-year-old Sun on Tuesday for 4 years, 3 months – about half the eight-year sanction handed down after the first trial in 2019.
The verdict ended Sun’s hopes of defending his Olympic title in the 200 metre freestyle in Tokyo next month.
Australian Mack Horton, who was among swimmers to label Sun a drug cheat at the 2016 Rio Olympics and refused to share the podium with him at the 2019 world championships in South Korea, will compete in Tokyo.
However, Horton will not be able to defend his 400m Olympic freestyle title after failing to qualify for the event at the Australian trials. He has been included in the squad as a relay swimmer.
Sun’s ban was backdated to February 2020, meaning he could return for the 2024 Paris Olympics when he would be 32.
The judges found Sun “to have acted recklessly” when he and members of his entourage were found to have smashed vials containing blood samples taken at an out-of-competition test in September 2018.
The formal charges were for refusing to give a sample and tampering with a doping control.
Sun denied wrongdoing and his original eight-year ban imposed last year was overturned on appeal to Switzerland’s supreme court, which ordered a fresh trial.
Federal judges ruled the first guilty verdict was tainted because the chairman of that three-person panel at CAS showed anti-Chinese bias in social media comments.
The retrial was heard by different judges by video over three days last month and fast-tracked before the Tokyo Olympics, which open on July 23.
WADA welcomed the latest CAS ruling on Tuesday, noting that its concerns about FINA’s inconsistent interpretation of anti-doping rules were upheld again.
FINA issued a brief statement Tuesday that it “acknowledges” the CAS ruling, which was not yet published in detail.
Sun was the first Chinese swimmer to win Olympic gold, at the 2012 London Games, and has long been a polarising figure in the pool – having previously been suspended for doping in 2014.
He won a total of 11 gold medals in five straight world championships from 2011 to 2019, at each freestyle distance from 200m to 1,500m.