Sun could still star in Tokyo

China's move to allow 2019 world champions in Games paves way for embattled swimmer

BEIJING • China's star swimmer Sun Yang, who is fighting to save his career after a doping controversy, has been given new hope of competing at the Olympics after China said reigning world champions were eligible for Tokyo.

The China Swimming Association's (CSA) announcement came as the three-time Olympic champion prepares for a new tribunal hearing over his refusal to give a doping sample when testers visited his home in September 2018.

Sun, the 1,500 metres freestyle world record holder, won the 200m and 400m free at the 2019 World Championships in South Korea, where he faced protests on the podium from fellow swimmers over his doping record.

The CSA laid out its eligibility requirements for the Olympics on Thursday, saying all gold medallists at the 2019 World Championships can participate.

The 29-year-old is not taking part in this week's Chinese championships and Olympic qualifiers in Qingdao, according to Chinese media. The national event, which take place until Saturday, will be followed by another competition for swimmers to secure their Tokyo Games berths early next month, according to a CSA statement reported by China News Service in March. Depending on other Chinese swimmers meeting the Olympic A standard, Sun might still be able to represent China based on his performances at the 2019 world meet.

China's other entry in the 200m and 400m free at the world event, Ji Xinjie, finished 10th and seventh in those races respectively. China did not have any other entries in the 800m free, where Sun finished sixth.

That means the Asian powerhouses will be able to keep a spot open for Sun, pending the outcome of his new hearing, which will determine if he is eligible to compete at the July 23-Aug 8 Olympics.

He was suspended for the maximum eight years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in February last year for refusing to give samples during a surprise doping test where a vial of his blood was smashed with a hammer.

But Switzerland's top court overturned the ban in December, in a surprise decision in which it said the CAS was guilty of bias.

Sun will reappear before the tribunal from May 24-28, just two months before the Tokyo Games.

He has fiercely protested his innocence in the testing affair, claiming the inspectors did not produce documents proving their identities.

It was not his first doping controversy: He was suspended for three months in 2014 after testing positive for the stimulant trimetazidine, in a case that was only made public after he had served most of the sentence.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

  • 8

    Years' ban for China's Sun Yang which was overturned by Switzerland's top court in December.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2021, with the headline 'Sun could still star in Tokyo'. Subscribe