GWANGJU, SOUTH KOREA (AFP) - China's swim king Sun Yang faces a September hearing over explosive doping allegations that could potentially end his career, a senior Fina official said on Sunday (July 14).
A leaked Fina doping panel report claimed the three-gold Olympic champion had destroyed his own blood sample with a hammer, but Sun has nevertheless been cleared to compete at next week's world championships in Gwangju, South Korea.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after Fina let Sun off on a legal technicality, although four months later the date of the hearing had yet to be set.
Fina executive director Cornel Marculescu has defended the stance taken by swimming's ruling body, despite the bombshell contents of the doping panel report obtained by Australia's Sunday Telegraph.
"It's very damaging," he told AFP. "I don't know how it's possible for something this confidential to go out to the world.
"But the situation is very simple - we have a decision from the Fina doping panel, which is totally independent," he added.
"According to the rules Wada can appeal - and they did so - and CAS is going to hold a hearing some time in September so we wait to see what will happen."
Sun and a security guard are said to have smashed vials of blood collected after independent testers visited the athlete's villa in Zhejiang province last September.
If Wada wins its case and he is found guilty of a doping violation, Sun could face a lifetime ban after serving a three-month suspension in 2014 for taking banned stimulant he claimed was for a heart problem.
Sun clashed with rival swimmers at the 2016 Rio Olympics, notably Australian Mack Horton, who branded him a "drug cheat" over that prior ban before pipping Sun to gold in the 400 metres freestyle.
French swimmer Camille Lacourt also savaged the Chinese giant, sniffing that "Sun Yang pees purple!"
But Marculescu insisted the decision to clear the nine-gold world champion this time was the correct one.
"The lawyers who made that decision started their meeting at 10 in the morning and finished at midnight," he said, adding that the 27-year-old Sun was innocent until proven otherwise.
"They hear testimony and they make these decisions. Now let's see what the next step is when it goes to CAS. It's very difficult to make somebody guilty without having any decision by the respective bodies."
Fina has faced criticism for failing to ban Sun and the shocking contents of the doping panel's 59-page report, dated Jan 3, look set to add fuel to the fire.
A colossus of the sport, he is the only swimmer to capture Olympic gold over 200, 400 and 1,500m, though controversy has followed him throughout a turbulent career.
But Marculescu tried to play down any fears of bickering on the pool deck in Gwangju.
"Hopefully there will be no problems," he said.
"It's difficult to say but I don't think it's going to have an influence one way or the other for the swimmers taking part."