The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo may not have American Michael Phelps in the pool, but there could be some real drama leading up to the Summer Games with the opening ceremonies starting exactly one year to the day.
China’s Sun Yang is building up quite the list of enemies from around the world.
Yang, a 10-time world champion and a three-time Olympic gold medalist, swept the 200 and 400-meter freestyle events at this week’s 2019 World Swimming Championships currently taking place in Gwangju, South Korea, and in both events, he was met with controversy and a complete lack of respect from his competitors.
And deservedly so.
After Yang’s win in the 400-meter freestyle, Australian swimmer Mack Horton refused to step onto the medal stand. “Frustration is probably it,” Horton told reporters after the race. “I think you know in what respect.”
There’s widespread belief that Yang is a cheat, and has been for quite some time.
Sun has been clouded in controversy as far back as 2014 when he was suspended for taking a banned heart medication.
However, he could potentially be facing a lifetime ban from the sport after clashing with anti-doping testers when Yang’s security detail smashed a sealed vial of his blood with a hammer.
When asked about Horton’s actions on the podium, Sun added that “disrespecting me is OK, but disrespecting China was very unfortunate and I felt sorry about that.”
Horton’s beef with Yang actually dates back to the Summer Olympics in Brazil three years ago when they had to be separated during a training session.
But wait, it gets better.
A few days later, Yang beat out the competition to win the 200-meter freestyle event when controversy ensued as Great Britain’s Duncan Scott, the bronze medal winner, refused to pose for photographs and, in turn, shake Yang’s hand afterwards.
As the swimmers were walking off the podium, Yang approaches Scott and gets right in his face for his lack of acknowledgement.
The entire incident that took place earlier today can be seen here:
Apparently, Yang told Scott, “You lose, I win,” which may have been the extent of his English.
FINA, swimming’s international federation, has a real problem on its hands. They issued the following statement to Horton, who refused to step up onto the podium.
“While FINA respects the principle of freedom of speech, it has to be conducted in the right context.
As in all major sports organizations, our athletes and their entourages are aware of their responsibilities to respect FINA regulations and not use FINA events to make personal statements or gestures.
The matter over which Mack Horton was allegedly protesting is currently under review by CAS, and therefore it is not appropriate for FINA to prejudice this hearing by commenting further.”
FINA essentially contradicted itself in its own statement.
The governing body respects their competitors right to free speech, but only on their terms. Once swimmers walk off the stage, the platform to protest is no longer there. Nobody’s watching any longer. The integrity of the sport and their federation is.
Yang has a history and it’s not a pretty one. Even a Chinese online publication calls him “the bad boy of swimming.”
That story claims that Yang has clashed with Chinese swimming authorities dating back to the 2016 Rio Olympics as a labeled cheat by his competitors
As for the vile of blood, FINA cleared Yang of any wrongdoing in a 59-page report which allowed Sun to escape with a “serious rebuke,” but with no penalty whatsoever.
As a result, Yang has “cleaned up” at the World Championships winning gold medal after gold medal. In fact, he’s undergone rigorous testing throughout the week, and apparently each test has come back negative.
But the rest of the world feels cheated, and while Phelps was the big story from the American-side in Rio, this appears to be one story that just won’t go away as Yang continues to race competitively.
South African Chad le Clos, runner-up to Sun in the 200m free at the 2016 Olympics, said: “It’s good that people are taking a stand. I want my gold medal back from Rio and (fourth-placed) James Guy should get his bronze, because it shouldn’t be allowed to have people cheating in sport.”
Now WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) has asked the CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport) to step up and decide on the case, which won’t be heard until September.
There could be even more drama in store for Wednesday as Yang competes for another gold medal in the 800-meter freestyle.
Just when you thought Donald Trump slapping a few tariffs on China was a big deal.