Sun back on world stage a year after dope ban

BEIJING • China's controversial Olympic swimming champion Sun Yang will probably compete in four events at the Fina World Championships starting in Russia on Friday, a report said yesterday, a year after a secret, three-month doping ban.

The triple gold medallist at the 2013 Barcelona edition is expected to line up in the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1,500m freestyle at the Kazan World Championships, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Despite being a national sporting hero, Sun has had several brushes with authority and earned a reputation for being a bad boy.

China belatedly revealed in November that he served a three- month doping ban before last September's Incheon Asian Games, where he won three golds.

The failure was blamed on medicine for heart palpitations.

The 23-year-old was also banned from swimming for six months and briefly jailed for driving without a licence in 2013 - which was discovered after his Porsche was hit by a bus.

He had a public falling-out with his former coach Zhu Zhigen, who said that a relationship with an air hostess was distracting his charge from swimming.

But the focus was back on sport yesterday, with Sun telling Xinhua that he was inspired by American legend Michael Phelps.

"When I was little, I watched Michael Phelps compete in five or six events at a world meet, so I want to try it as well," he said.

Coach Zhang Yadong believes Sun is "almost back to his peak", according to the news agency.

France's Olympic and world 200m freestyle gold winner Yannick Agnel and Asian champion Kosuke Hagino have pulled out of the championships owing to injuries while South Korea's Park Tae Hwan has been ruled out by a doping ban, improving Sun's chances.

China is sending a 51-member squad to the event, Xinhua said.

On the women's side, the Chinese are led by Olympic champion Ye Shiwen, but reigning 200m butterfly world champion Liu Zige failed to make the cut because of poor form. Jiao Liuyang, who won the same race at London 2012, was ruled out by stomach illness.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2015, with the headline 'Sun back on world stage a year after dope ban'. Print Edition | Subscribe