RIO DE JANERIO (AFP) - China's swim team wants an apology from Australian Mack Horton for launching a "malicious personal attack" on rival Sun Yang at the Olympics, Chinese media reported Sunday.
Horton dethroned the hulking Chinese swimmer as Olympic champion in the Saturday's 400m freestyle after taking a dig at Sun's doping record.
Asked how he felt about doping violators Sun and South Korean Park Tae-Hwan competing at the Games, Horton said before the 400m final: "I don't have time or respect for drug cheats."
Asked afterwards by angry Chinese journalists why he had used such terminology, Horton did not mince his words.
"I used the word 'drugs cheat' because he tested positive," replied Horton, setting the tone for an explosive press conference and triggering a furious response from Chinese officials.
"We have been noticing what has been said in the past two days by Horton, who launched a malicious personal attack (on Chinese swimmers)," team manager Xu Qi told China's state-run Xinhua news agency. "We think his inappropriate words greatly hurt the feelings between Chinese and Australian swimmers. It is proof of a lack of good manners and upbringing. We strongly demand an apology from this swimmer."
Bad boy Sun, who is no stranger to controversy, was handed a three-month doping ban - served in secret two years ago - for taking a banned stimulant he said was for a heart complaint.
Some of his rivals in Rio have suggested he should not have been allowed to defend his gold medals in the 400 and 1,500m from the 2012 London Olympics.
Canada's Ryan Cochrane fumed: "For an athlete that's clean it's really frustrating. Once the Games are over, we'll all look back and wish this was handled better."
Footage of a disconsolate Sun sobbing uncontrollably in the media mixed zone after the final went viral on Chinese social media. Sun, who returned to the pool on Sunday to post the quickest time in the 200m freestyle heats, refused to take the criticism lying down, growling: "I'm clean. I've proved I'm clean. I don't think we need to concern ourselves with the Australian's mind tricks."