SHANGHAI • World champion Ning Zetao has been dropped from China's national swimming squad for violating several team rules including signing sponsorship contracts without the team's consent, Xinhua reported on Wednesday.
He has been sent back to his Chinese Navy team for training, the official news agency said, citing the Chinese swimming authority.
"Ning Zetao violated the rules of the national swimming team which has resulted in an adverse effect on the team," said a statement from the Swimming Management Centre of the General Administration of Sport of China. "Everyone is equal and should abide by rules in sports."
The decision to sideline Ning was made last October by the Chinese national swimming team.
It also said Ning had refused to comply with the team's competition assignment and declined to take part in an Olympic qualifying relay event, which caused the Chinese men's team to miss out on the 4x200m freestyle relay at last year's Rio Olympics.
However, despite sending Ning back to the navy team, the Chinese swimming authority still made it clear that "the door of the national swimming team is always open to those talent who are willing to make contribution to the sport of swimming in China".
Ning Zetao violated the rules of the national swimming team which has resulted in an adverse effect on the team. Everyone is equal and should abide by rules in sports.
A STATEMENT from the Swimming Management Centre of the General Administration of Sport of China on dropping world champion Ning Zetao from the national team.
Ning was not available for comment, though a local website quoted him as saying that he has neither received nor had a look at the internal notification.
In 2015, the 23-year-old became the first Asian swimmer to win the 100m freestyle at the Kazan World Championships.
He had been the subject of social media reports last year which speculated that he was due to be cut from the Rio Olympics team because he was undertaking too many commercial engagements.
Last year, Ning reportedly entered into a sponsorship agreement with dairy brand Yili pre-Rio, a brand which is in direct competition with the national swimming team's official milk sponsor, China Mengniu Dairy.
The young star also signed a partnership deal with adidas, one which was supposedly not authorised by Chinese Swimming and also one in direct conflict with the team's official apparel sponsor, 361 Degrees.
He eventually competed in Rio but managed only a 12th-place finish in the 100m freestyle and 30th place in the 50m freestyle.