Adam Peaty: Sun Yang’s Athletes-Champion Claim Is “An Absolute Joke”

Two tales of what it means to be an Athletes' Champion - Sun Yang on the left, Adam Peaty on the right - Images Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Adam Peaty guesses that Sun Yang is not supported by 95% or 99% of World swim community

Adam Peaty has described as “an absolute joke” Sun Yang’s claims that he was simply standing up for the rights of other athletes when he contributed to the smashing of a blood-sample container with a hammer.

Neither he nor 95-98% of the World swimming community is buying a word of it, says the Olympic 100m breaststroke champion in comments made on the eve of the International Swimming League’s European Derby in London.

A Court of Arbitration for Sport  (CAS) hearing heard in Montreux last Friday heard Sun declare himself an athletes’ champion for standing up for the rights of sportsmen and women to know who is testing them and to expect “professional” handling and high standards from anti-doping testers.

The alternative view was that of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which has called on CAS to throw out a FINA caution to Sun over the events surrounding an acrimonious test mission to his home in September 2018, in favour of a two-to-eight year ban for “tampering” that would effectively end the Olympic freestyle champion’s career. A panel of three CAS judges will decide the case ands issue it report in the New Year, possibly as early was January.

Peaty, Olympic breaststroke champion, said of Sun’s justification and explanation for his behaviour:

“That’s an absolute joke. That’s probably what his lawyers told him to say, he’s probably got some great PR support. But I don’t believe a word that comes out of his mouth.”

Sun first made the ‘Athletes’ Champion’ claim after Mack Horton and Duncan Scott refused to join him on the medal podium at the World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, last July.

Both Horton and Scott received plaudits from the likes of Peaty and Katie Ledecky, as well as supportive comments from USADA boss Travis Tygart and treated to standing ovations from other international swimmers when they returned to the athlete’s village after they staged podium protests. Scott’s moment was beamed around the world after Sun blew his top and and screamed at Scott: “you loser, I’m winner”.

All three freestyler specialists were slapped with a warning from FINA but the international federation’s director Cornel Marculescu, singled out Horton and Scott for criticism without mentioning Sun at the closing press conference of the championships.

FINA and its lawyers have also taken Sun’s part in the CAS hearing, ignoring the outpouring of protest from vast waves of their major stakeholders, the athletes. FINA counsel Fabrice Tissot stated that “75%” of the argument in favour of treating Sun with what many regard as leniency – a caution well shy of a penalty –  rested on the view that proper notification procedures were not followed by the three officers attending the control mission for the IDTM testing agency long used by FINA.

While Sun’s legal team match FINA’s much-questioned stance that best-practice guidelines from WADA were not observed but should have been, counsel for WADA pointed to the fact that guidelines are not legally binding and the only rules that matter are those laid out in WADA’s International Standards for Testing and Investigations (ISTI). Those conditions were met, WADA asserted in Montreux.

When it comes to Sun’s claim to have acted as an Athletes’ Champion, Peaty would have none of it. He told the Australian Telegraph’s Julian Linden:

“If you went around each athlete in each country and asked them ‘would you support Sun Yang in this current situation?”, I’m pretty sure 95% or 99% would say absolutely no way. I remember when Duncan came back to the room, all the countries were clapping him for standing up to Sun Yang so he can’t just turn around and say ‘I’m fighting for athlete’s rights.’ It doesn’t work like that. You don’t have serious allegations like that against you and turn around and go ‘I’m actually fighting for you guys.’ This is just him trying to swing the story.”

Sun and his supporters, including the Xinhua state news agency of China, have gone on a charm offensive this week after the hearing in in Montreux revealed several key changes to witness statements by Sun and his entourage. That included, said Rich Young, counsel for WADA, the removal of Sun’s original claim that the Doping Control Officer (DCO) had handed the now controversial blood sample back to him.


Sun Yang – Parting Shot Photo Courtesy: Craig Lord

In Montreux, Sun stated that it had been his physician Dr Ba Zhen who had taken the container carrying Sun’s blood back from the chain of custody it entered when Sun signed paperwork agreeing that all proper procedure had been followed. Dr. Ba, twice banned by WADA in 2014-15 after he prescribed a prohibited substance to Sun, arrived at the testing mission around 1am and argued that the sample was invalid and should be removed from the chain of custody because the blood nurse on the visit did not have a license to draw blood in that particular region, Zhejiang, of China, her qualifications pertaining to the Shanghai region. More on all of that.

Meanwhile, Peaty noted that Sun was bronze out of the League because the ISL did not accept swimmers towing a doping record. Said Peaty:

“Doping is one of the biggest threats to any sport because once you lose that fan base and they think what they’re seeing isn’t real then you’ve lost them forever. Over the (northern hemisphere) summer, there was obviously a lot of doping allegations that were drowning out the success stories we need to be celebrating so we need to get rid of all the rubbish dopers.”


Sun Yang and his counsel, Ian Meakin – Photo Courtesy: Craig Lord

A string of articles heavily supportive of Sun Yang at Xinhua grew longer this week and included an “exclusive” interview with the swimmers’ lawyers in which counsel Ian Meakin says:

“Ok, they didn’t ask for his sperm but they asked for his blood and his urine and in order to do that, to take your bodily fluids, you have to be qualified.”

WADA says that the doping-control officers in question were qualified and that Sun had recourse, like all other athletes, to register his concerns and complaints on the doping-control form in the same way as he had done before and in the way that athletes do the world over. Instead, say WADA lawyers, he complied in part, refused to comply in part and then tampered with a sample by taking it out of the chain of custody that it had entered.

Meakin also accepts Sun may also be at fault when he notes:

“Ok, you can criticise him on a behavioural aspect but he is a human being after all.”

Whether the same mercy will apply to the human who served as a qualified blood nurse on the fateful evening last year, remains to be seen. One of Sun’s witnesses, Prof. Pei Yang, travelled to Switzerland to tell the CAS hearing that she is now facing a jail term for drawing blood beyond the region of her licence.

In Montreux, Young, for WADA, said he was concerned about “issues of intimidation and protection” surrounding the case. It is hard to find coverage of that line in China.

Meanwhile, in the relentless Xinhua coverage of Sun’s side of the argument, Sun Yang’s Australian coach Dennis Cotterell is quoted as saying: “Sun is justified in refusing to let people not properly qualified to do whatever or tamper with the samples”. For his part, Sun attacks “prejudices and unfair treatment” of him.



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