Chinese swimming star defends failure to take doping test

MONTREUX, Switzerland (AP) — One of China’s biggest Olympic stars fought on Friday for his right to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Games during a rare public hearing that turned combative at times, as champion swimmer Sun Yang defended his refusal to complete a doping test last year.

During a 10-hour session marred at times by translation problems, Sun maintained that inspectors drawing blood and urine samples failed to have proper identification papers.

The interpretation issues in both English and Chinese brought a halt to the landmark Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) hearing several times, frustrating lawyers for both sides during Sun’s opening cross-examination. Sun’s mother later took the stand, at one point admonishing lawyers, “I haven’t finished yet.”

One lawyer said he could not tell if Sun was being evasive or if it was simply a case of misunderstood translation.

The case stems from the three-time Olympic champion’s refusal to cooperate with three anti-doping officials during a random test that became a confrontation in the early morning hours at his home in China in September 2018.

“During inspection, I realised they don’t have any authorised papers to prove their identification,” Sun testified on Friday.

A World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) expert disputed Sun’s account, saying the inspectors’ credentials were in order.

A tribunal appointed by the swimming world body FINA initially gave Sun only a caution, but WADA appealed the case to CAS. Its judges are not expected to hand down a verdict until next year. If the ruling goes against him, Sun could be banned from the 2020 Olympics.

The two-metre Sun became a star in China as the country’s first man to win an Olympic title in swimming. He won gold medals in the 400- and 1,500-metre freestyle races at the 2012 London Olympics. He added gold in the 200 at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The 27-year-old Sun, who also has 11 world championship titles, has been a polarising figure in the sport.

In Rio, one Australian rival called him a drug cheat as anger built over a three-month ban for his positive test in 2014 that some considered too lenient. The ban was initially kept secret by Chinese authorities and FINA, which some accused of appearing to protect one of its biggest names in a key market.

Swimmer Sun Yang from China at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Montreux, Switzerland. PHOTO: AP