BEIJING • Chinese swimming star Sun Yang threatened legal action against a British newspaper on Sunday over claims that he faced a lifetime ban after allegedly clashing with anti-doping testers and smashing a vial of blood with a hammer.
The 27-year-old, who has won Olympic gold medals in the 200m, 400m and 1,500m freestyle and is also a multiple world champion, strongly refuted the accusations published in The Sunday Times.
The daily alleged that a confrontation took place and Sun - who was banned for three months in 2014 for taking a stimulant - missed an out-of-competition test on Sept 4 at his home in Zhejiang province.
"A clash with anti-doping testers ended in him and his security guard using a hammer to smash a vial containing his blood," it reported.
After the story broke, Sun's lawyer Zhang Qihuai issued a statement via Xinhua saying The Times had "a malign intention" and "severely damaged Sun Yang's reputation and violated his privacy".
"We reserve the right to file a lawsuit against the relevant international media," he said.
Zhang stressed that a doping panel for Fina, swimming's world governing body, ruled in Sun's favour on Jan 3 and testers for the International Doping Tests & Management had breached some rules.
Those included failing to produce authorisation letters, so he elected to reject the testing.
The statement, which made no mention about the smashed blood vial, also read: "They fabricated an untruthful report claiming Sun Yang broke anti-doping rules."
In a separate interview that was published by Xinhua on Sunday, Zhang said: "Sun is entitled to reject any invalid doping test and safeguard the reputation and integrity of Chinese athletes."
But The Times noted that while Fina had cleared Sun, the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) "has demanded to know more about the extraordinary events".
Sun is considered one of China's greatest athletes, but has courted controversy in the past, having previously engaged in a war of words with Australian Mack Horton.
He received the backing on Sunday from the country's swimming association, which insisted he had cooperated fully with Fina.
The China Swimming Association added: "The association will continue to strictly abide by anti-doping regulations."