Coach Denis Cotterell Quits Chinese Swimming & Will Not Support Sun Yang’s Last Appeal Against Eight-Year Ban

Sun Yang and Denis Cotterell
Denis Cotterell with Chinese charge Sun Yang - Photo Courtesy: USA Today Sports

Denis Cotterell, Sun Yang’s Australian coach, has quit Chinese swimming and will not support the swimmer’s further appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal against the eight-year ban imposed on him by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) after a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) hearing.

Sun’s swimming career came to a thudding halt on Friday February 28 when the CAS declared in favour of WADA against Sun and his backers at FINA, the international swimming federation whose Doping Panel outlined the excoriating details of an acrimonious anti-doping mission to the swimmer’s home in September 2018 but concluded that a caution was enough. WADA begged to differ, pressed for a charge of tampering and won the argument, the full report of which was released last Wednesday.

Since then, Chinese fans have started to turn on Sun. Now Cotterell has severed ties and says he will not support Sun’s last appeal.

Asked if he supported Yang’s appeal, Cotterell said: “No.”


Sun Yang and Dennis Cotterell prepare to enter the CAS hearing in Montreux, November, 2019 – Photo Courtesy: Craig Lord

Cotterell, who supported Sun throughout his CAS hearing, has previously insisted that Sun was a clean swimmer, even saying that he was just as clean as his most famous Australian swimmer, Grant Hackett.

He also defended Sun during last year’s FINA world championships, where the Chinese swimmer faced a podium protest after the 400m freestyle final by Australian 2016 Olympic champion Mack Horton, who refused to pose for photographs with Sun to reinforce his message that he did not feel a swimmer towing a doping record and in the midst of a second anti-doping adjudication process should have been allowed to race at the global showcase.

At the time, Cotterell said of the 11-times World champion who at London 2012 became the first Chinese man ever to claim Olympic gold in the pool when he won the 400m:

“I love working with an athlete who has paid their dues, has longevity and is still achieving. If you think for a second I would be doing that with someone that is a cheat then people don’t know me. That is an insult.”

Sun’s career is beyond repair, regardless of the outcome of his appeal, a part of which is aimed at returning him to the sport in time for the defence of the Olympic 200m freestyle at Tokyo 2020. That outcome is widely believed to be highly unlikely but should Sun return from the anti-doping grave his presence in the pool would almost certainly be haunted by the booing and jeering and the podium protests witnessed against him at Rio 2016 and Gwangju 2019 World Championships.


  1. Darren Bodey

    Run back to Australia Denis. We’ve got the best now though!

  2. Sharon Moran

    Jennifer- defected and now returns. Hope Swimming Australia denies him any appointment in the National squad.

  3. Kel Senior

    WOW! Well written Intro ?? Basically the same sentence 3 Xs over! ??

    • Colleen Tessler

      I thought i couldnt read but yea ur right haha

    • Raj Verma

      Kel Senior they seem to do this a lot. It seems they repeat this often. I think if they do it 3 times they think it will stick?

      • avatar
        Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

        Raj… ‘they’ is a robot… the articles do not have repeated intros… its an automatic setting in the facebook push that doesn’t do what it says on the can, by the looks of it.

    • avatar
      Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

      Kel, not sure if you had a good night out ? but the intro is there just once in the article (?) … perhaps you were referring to the facebook post (the automatic push sometimes shows head, standfirst and intro…?)

    • Peter Leek

      I don’t get it…nothing seems to repeat?

  4. avatar

    Long overdue and hopefully he just retires now.

  5. Lou Gooden

    Karma is a wonderful thing ….. ☺️

  6. avatar
    Andrei Vorontsov

    It is exactly, better late (almost all money taken from the tilt).
    “Was blind (for many-many years!), but now can see!” – Amazing Grace!

    • avatar
      Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

      Indeed, Andrei

  7. Timoteo Soriano

    Not surprising as he is an Australian, I think he is being pressured by his peers at home

  8. Lola Woodward

    He took the word of Sun Yang and the Chinese Swimming Association against the word of a fellow Australian?? You would think if anyone was to know if an elite athlete was cheating, his coach would be in on it. Sorry Denis, I hope you find it difficult to find another coaching position

    • Carrie Power

      Helen Seal I wonder what changed his coaches opinion seeing as he’s been defending him until now ?

  9. Bianca Bernardo

    And we are suppose to believe that he didn’t know that sun was a cheat. Riiight

    • Desmond Lam

      Bianca Bernardo probably the mastermind behind it

    • Steve Keys

      Roland Zhang essentially this is a proxy for war, much like the Olympics during the cold war, where both the US & Russia used state-sanctioned doping programs in the pursuit of athletic supremacy. Perception of superiority is everything.

  10. Peter Leek

    Took them long enough…he’s declined a lot since he trained Grant Hackett

  11. Bruce Hamnett

    No job back in Oz for him I would hope

  12. avatar

    Dennis has been an outstanding Australian coach over the years. No doubt his work with the Chinese has given him a great bank balance to retire with. Without that work retirement could be a struggle. Aussie coaches are hardly the best paid in the world.
    He has been the best distance coach we have ever had, don’t waste him, use him as a mentor coach, if he wants to still work. Doping is seldom the domain of the coach

  13. Rodney Marks

    And of course he knew nothing about his athlete cheating!

    • avatar

      As a coach and I was one for
      60 years I have never had an idea that any of my international swimmers were taking drugs to enhance performance. I had two that were on cannabis and magic mushrooms, that was very noticeable as their brains were not in gear. I have been suspicious of some female swimmers ( that were not mine), that displayed some male characteristics.
      Sun is different, although he swam with Dennis for many years, he was also very much a major player in the national system. China has not got a great reputation in that area. I am sure Dennis suspected, did he know? We will probably never know