LAUSANNE (REUTERS) - China’s top swimmer Sun Yang said he was shocked and would appeal being handed an eight-year ban on Friday (Feb 28), a sanction that rules him out of this year's Tokyo Games and that could end his career, after he missed an out-of-competition test for doping.
The Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) earlier accepted an appeal from the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) against a decision by swimming body Fina to clear him of wrongdoing for his conduct during the test in September 2018.
CAS said the eight-year ban was imposed because the 28-year-old already had an earlier anti-doping rule violation against him from 2014.
Sun protested his innocence and said in a statement that he was angered by the decision.
“I have entrusted a lawyer to appeal to the Swiss Federal Supreme Court in accordance with the law. I will let more people know the truth,” he added. “I firmly believe in my innocence! Believe that facts must overcome lies!
“I will fight to the end to defend my legitimate rights and interests.”
Sun is China's top swimmer, having won two gold medals at the 2012 London Olympic games and another in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, and the case has attracted huge interest in his homeland.
A Fina report said he questioned the credentials of the testers before members of his entourage smashed vials containing his blood samples with a hammer.
He had argued during the CAS hearing that the testers failed to prove their identity and behaved in an unprofessional manner.
He competed at last year's world championships in South Korea under the shadow of the appeal, and three rivals snubbed him after races.
"The CAS panel unanimously determined, to its comfortable satisfaction, that the athlete violated Article 2.5 Fina DC (tampering with any part of doping control)," the statement said.
"In particular, the panel found that the personnel in charge of the doping control complied with all applicable requirements as set out in the ISTI (International Standard for Testing and Investigation).
"More specifically, the athlete failed to establish that he had a compelling justification to destroy his sample collection containers and forgo the doping control when, in his opinion, the collection protocol was not in compliance with the ISTI."
Sun is a controversial figure. At the Rio Games, Australian rival Mack Horton accused him of being a “drug cheat”.
At last year’s Gwangju world championships in South Korea, 400m freestyle silver medallist Horton refused to share a podium with Sun, who won the gold while competing under the shadow of the appeal.
The gesture drew applause from other swimmers but a warning from Fina.
The case has attracted huge interest in China, where Sun is currently training at the Zhejiang College of Sports in Hangzhou, and the swimming world.
CAS ruled that his world championship results should stand because he passed dope tests before and after the aborted 2018 control.
There was also no evidence that the swimmer may have engaged in doping activity since then.
Wada welcomed the ruling as “a significant result” and said it was “satisfied that justice in this case has been rendered”.
Tens of thousands of Chinese flooded social media in support of Sun, stating the verdict was “cruel” and “unjust”.
“Foreigners are jealous. It is really unfair to treat Sun Yang in this way. Since when did competitive sports become villain sports?” said one user called ‘Lingering memories’ on microblogging website Weibo.
The Chinese Swimming Association said it deeply regretted the ruling and supported Sun in defending his interests.