Mack ‘The Knife’ Horton Greeted With Applause Of Athletes From Around The World; Shows “Great Moral Fibre”

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Mack Horton was greeted to the dining hall at the Athletes’ Village last night to resounding round off applause from fellow athletes from around the world after he refused to stand on the medals podium next to Chinese controversy Sun Yang after the Australian Olympic champion finished the 400m freestyle final as the first man home with a clean record – for silver.

This morning on the second day of racing at the World Swimming Championships in Gwangju, Horton was buoyed by waves of continued support from athletes and coaches around the world after calls for him to face “a hefty penalty” for his silent protest against Sun’s presence, pending a Court of Arbitration hearing into a controversial out-of-competition test carried out near the Chinese swimmer’s home in Zhejiang Province last September.

Australian coaching guru Bill Sweetenham called on Australians “to support Mack Horton on his stance:”, his “great moral fibre” and “outstanding standards”, while Head Coach to Australia, Jacco Verhaeren, led a Dolphins chorus when he said: “No-one actually knew (he was going to protest in the way he did).

“That was his idea to do that. Let’s put it this way: I understand him, very much so. He has been very strong and vocal about this in the past and you can only respect him for what he does win that score.”

After a terrific start to the World Championships here at the Nambu pool here in Gwangju yesterday, the Dolphins had “to stay focussed and not to pay too much attention to what Mack did”, said the Dutchman and former mentor to Pieter Van den Hoogenband. There would be no silencing or stopping Horton, however.

“He stands for what he stands for and no-one can take that away from him. No-one should. As a team, we move on: we have 7 days of racing ahead,” said Verhaeren.

Not all Down Under agreed with Horton’s stance, however, Richard Ings, former boss at the Australian anti-doping agency, ASADA, tweeted that while he was “no fan” of Sun’s, he felt Horton should “should attract a hefty penalty” for his action.

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Sun Yang – Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Sun was a regular training visitor Down Under until 2014 but caused a change of rules in Australia after he tested positive for a banned substance that year: no athlete who falls foul of the WADA Code’s anti-doping rules is allowed to train at Australian pools funded by the public purse. Sun told Xinhua in Gwangju:

“Not everyone likes me. I don’t care about it. It is also OK if you don’t respect me personally, but during the victory ceremony, which is the most important event, we all represent our countries, you should stand on the podium, and show your respect to my country China and your country Australia and to the audience.”

If Horton was roundly clobbered by Chinese fans on social media and courted criticism from some quarters Down Under, then Ings attracted the opprobrium of athletes and coaches in Australia and from the Dolphins in Gwangju.

Australian Bill Sweetenham, Performance Director for the Team GB swimming team at the Team GB training camp, in Paphos, Cyprus, ahead of the Athens Olympics August 6, 2004. REUTERS/Toby Melville TM/ - RP5DRIDPTJAA

Bill Sweetenham – Photo Courtesy: Toby Melville

Sweetenham continued a long Australian tradition of speaking up for clean sport and Fair Play when he called on all Australians to support Horton and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him.

Horton’s protest had been “silent and respectful”, says Sweetenham, telling journalist Ian Hanson:

“I ask you to support Mack Horton on his stance…we are looking at a young man of great moral fibre who gives his all to his sport and sets outstanding standards. Mack should be praised and protected against any detractors. He is is not the one who has committed drug offences. Mack represents all that is great in sport and life. He has character and inner strength that only some possess…for mine he is a sporting general…we must continue to support clean and moral athletes.”

Germany team spokesman, on behalf of all German swimmers, paid plaudits to Horton when he said:

“I’m happy that finally someone has sent a strong message. That he (Sun) is swimming here is a joke for all clean athletes. For anyone who stands up for clean sport, it’s a slap in the face. I hope … that the signal is strong enough for the FINA to realise that should never happen on this stage again. I find it depressing just to think about it: it east at the whole team and we’re all very happy to see that a line was drawn (by Horton).”

Outspoken American clean-sport advocate and Olympic 100m breaststroke champion Lilly King took a stand Wirth Horton at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Both objected to the presence of swimmers, such as Sun and Russian Yuliya Efimova, towing a doping record.

Today, King echoed the support for Horton after she’d topped the heats of the 100m breaststroke. The Australian’s refusal to mount the podium “was a great baller, honestly”, said King.

“We were waiting around for the awards ceremony just to see what was going to happen. It was awesome: when we walked into the dining hall after he walked in after us and the whole dining hall erupted into applause. It was pretty good to see the athletes united on his stance and supporting him as well.”

Australian 100m free Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers weighed in this morning after emerging from the next lane to Sun in 200m freestyle heats: “I think Mack has done a few of those things now – he strongly believes in that and that is totally fine. It’s Mack: it’s Mack’s decision to do that sort of stuff.”

Chalmers said that he refused to let the storm around Sun become a distraction: “At the end of the day, Sun’s here, Sun’s racing. We’ve just got to do what we can to swim our best races and I’m not worried about my competitors, I’m worried about my own race and I guess learning how to swim a 200.”

Britain’s Duncan Scott, another through to the 200m semis, echoed the need to stay focussed on the task at hand, saying: “I’ve got my 200 free semi-final this evening. I know how I feel on it but I’ll comment when I finish racing. I’ve got to focus on this first but I think what has been done is there’s quite a movement in the sport but I’ll comment on it afterwards.”

For Sun, it was business as usual as he went through his paces in the 200m freestyle heats, Chinese fans cheering wildly in the stands, silence, skepticism, doubt, distress and defiance all about them and a hero who back in 2016 at the Rio Olympic Games was booed out to his blocks from the athletes’ stand. He claimed gold then, over 200m, and last night retained the 400m world title, drawing him level with American Ryan Lochte in the league of biggest haulers in solo events at world titles: both have 10 individual gold medals, the record standing to Michael Phelps, with 15 solo golds.

In September, the CAS will hear the challenge from the World Anti-Doping Agency to a decision from the FINA Doping Panel to let Sun off with a series of stern rebukes in a hearing report back in January after a four-hour dispute with testers last September ended with neither urine nor blood samples available to send for analysis.

37 comments

  1. avatar
    Matt

    It’s a sad indictment that the voice raised against Mack Horton comes from a former anti-doping chief. What will it take? A FIFA style FBI investigation?

  2. avatar
    TOM

    Typical Western hypocrisy and double standards. See: The French newspaper Team revealed in April 2007 that Thorpe was testosterone and hormone positive in a stimulant test in 2006, but the Australian Anti-Doping Association did not make the matter public. They also blocked Thorpe’s urine test results and said they had abandoned further investigation because of lack of evidence.

    • avatar
      Craig Lord

      Tom, you omit to mention quite a few relevant facts in the Thorpe story, including FINA taking the matter to CAS but, on advise of further investigation by anti-doping experts, dropping the case because the expert advise was the levels of testosterone:epitestosterone above normal were naturally occurring in the swimmer (previous testing history showed that to be the case). It was also what Australian authorities had concluded. Thus, no case to answer. Remember, the case never went as far as the athlete ever having been informed (and that goes for many cases that included d deeper investigations but then do not make it to a case) until he read it, with the rest of us, in the newspaper. At the time, Thorpe had just retired following moves with others to set up a professional swimming league beyond the bounds of FINA. All those factors, regardless of anyone’s views either way, paint a very different picture to those pertaining to Sun, his doctor and entourage in a country that produced more than 100 positive tests, many of them under-age athletes in the 1990s and into the next century. When Sun did test positive, in 2014, FINA stated that China had sought to keep the cases secret. Sun now says he wants full transparency at a public hearing. In the spirit of that transparency, this is a great opportunity for Sun and China to answer a great many questions, not just about September 4-5 last year, but about the many reasons why trust is running so very low.

      • avatar
        TOM

        Sun Yang’s case has not been tried yet. How can you determine Sun Yang’s guilt? Please shut up before the trial. Believe that the law will give the answer.

      • avatar
        Craig Lord

        Tom, of course, yes, there is a process, one that would never have happened without exposure of a secret process that WADA believes came to a conclusion worth challenging. There you write ‘guilt’, of course, this is not a blameless athlete nor doctor you are talking about. Sun has one suspension to his name and his doctor two, the same doctor who was calling the shots in the doping control room. It is reasonable to note such things, regardless of your view or neutrality of view on the current Sun case.

      • avatar
        Craigbest

        “When Sun did test positive, in 2014”, yes, but you didn’t mention that’s for a proscribed substance, trimetazidine, that had been prescribed for angina, a heart condition. When Sun took the drug, it had been on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list for only less than five months. Not enough time. That heart med is very EASILY detectable. It wasn’t a designer drug designed to mask detection.

        Why not mention this fact? I guess you know why.

        In 2016, Sun was clean. Now he is immune to childish cheap smears and he has put Horton in his place this year as well as in 2017. Unless he has actual proof in the last 5 years, horton should shut up.

      • avatar
        Mail Cay

        Trust is running so very low largely because of the twisted news report full of prejudice and bias

  3. avatar
    TOM

    The world-shaking 2013 Australian doping epidemic, forgotten? Are you qualified to blame others?

  4. avatar
    TOM

    According to the Guardian website on July 8, 2014, research shows that 12-year-old athletes in Australia are using drugs to improve their performance, and they want to be like their sports idols.
    A survey of more than 900 junior athletes conducted by Griffith University and Canberra University showed that 4% of them had taken drugs to improve their performance.
    Young athletes are more likely than adults to think that doping is very common among athletes’stars.
    Almost 5% of junior athletes said they had received such drugs.
    More than 10% of athletes think their competitors are also taking stimulants.
    Stephen Moston, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Canberra, said it was necessary to test young athletes for drugs and to tell them about the dangers of doping.
    “Considering that young athletes are hardly affected by doping, more and more potential drug use has not been tested,” he said.
    Many young athletes also continue to supplement their nutritional supplements, but they do not achieve the desired results.

  5. avatar
    TOM

    Australian media said in 2017 that Groves, Fraser Holmes and Pult, runners-up of the women’s 200-meter butterfly at the Rio Olympics, would face a two-year suspension because they had “evaded” doping tests in the past year.
    According to the World Anti-Doping Regulations and other provisions, athletes need to declare and update their whereabouts at any time, including daily accommodation address, specific address and time schedule for training and other activities, as well as competition schedule, so as to accept doping testing at any time.
    The Australian Swimming Association said it had informed the Australian Anti-Doping Agency and the International Swimming Federation about the situation.

  6. avatar
    Andrew

    Give it a rest ‘Tom’. We are all aware of the facts of this and each of the other instances you mention. None of that ‘whataboutery’ distracts from the Sun Yang situation.

    My daughter is a young competitive swimmer. Her response was to say that all of the other swimmers should stand up to the blocks on the whistle, but then not start on the gun and leave drugs cheats to swim, very obviously, by themselves. Maybe that’s too much by way of self-denial, and Mack Horton’s stand is the next best thing. Well done him!!

    • avatar
      Al

      ‘Andrew,’ so you’d expect athletes shaved and tapered for what might be a once in a lifetime event to trash it all for the sake of making a statement about a situation where, for most rationally minded individuals, the jury is still very much out? And if ‘whataboutery’ speaks to the hypocrisy of accusers, it’s very much fair game.

      • avatar
        Andrew

        Hi – no, as I said, that would be (far) too much to expect, but it is telling that even a young swimmer feels so strongly about such cheating that she thinks that would be appropriate.

        On ‘whataboutery’, no – it’s a deliberate rhetorical distraction. It assumes that people commenting on one situation would deal/have dealt with other situations involving their own compatriots differently. That’s not a fair assumption, and in fact 99.9% of the time, completely wrong.

  7. avatar
    Chris

    Typical Western hypocrisy and double standards. In the report there’s not a word about why Sun is allowed to join the game. let me tell you, that’s because those ones were not authorized to test him, violating the procedure justice. Sun Yang’s case has not been tried yet, so please shut up before the trial.

  8. avatar
    Craigbest

    “When Sun did test positive, in 2014”, yes, but you didn’t mention that’s for a proscribed substance, trimetazidine, that had been prescribed for angina, a heart condition. When Sun took the drug, it had been on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list for only less than five months. Not enough time. That heart med is very EASILY detectable. It wasn’t a designer drug designed to mask detection.

    Why not mention this fact? I guess you know why.

    In 2016, Sun was clean. Now he is immune to childish cheap smears and he has put Horton in his place this year as well as in 2017. Unless he has actual proof in the last 5 years, horton should shut up.

    • avatar
      Craig Lord

      We and many other media sources, all available online, have mentioned those details ad nauseam + the fact that FINA revealed that the CSA had sought to impose no penalty and had kept the case quiet for many, many months before it came to light. The details of the case are a matter of public record. I wish the full facts were available everywhere in the world.

  9. avatar
    Horten

    What a sore loser and the sore media.

  10. avatar
    Jarbin

    Foreign media have been distorting news about China.Is this really an authoritative media?

    • avatar
      Iven

      Winner is always the winner. How ridiculous are things that Australian media have done just because of a loser! Is it valuable? Loser is always loser. If you don’t want to admit your failure,just speak with your true abilities. Or shut up and respect our China besides Chinese athletes!

  11. Graham Du Toit

    This whole mess lays at Fina’s feet – gutless and spineless -should have sorted the cheat out long ago.

  12. Elizabeth Kooy

    “You should show respect to my country”. Why? Because it encourages doping? And hires goons to break tainted blood vials with hammers?

    • avatar

      How did you know that? It’s shameful that the hearing hasn’t been held and the FINA has agreed to compete and discredit its opponents.

    • avatar

      How did you know that? It’s shameful that the hearing hasn’t been held and the FINA has agreed to compete and discredit its opponents.

  13. Donna Furse

    Well done. However Fina sent a warning to both him and team Australia. Sad

    • avatar

      I can’t believe it’s the headline of the media? Great? Horton has really lost the face of Australians.

  14. Richard Clifford

    The FINA ‘warning letter’ is a testament to a morally bankrupt organization

  15. Patsy Patterson Martin

    They know the Chinese have a new cheat sheet . Cannot detect it yet but it is there.

  16. Doug Schack

    Just like Area 51, FINA can’t stop all of you 🤷🏿‍♂️

  17. Liz Frehner

    As the parent of a young swimmer I applaud Mack and Lily for standing up for a clean sport. Thank you for being good role models.

  18. avatar

    I can’t believe it’s the headline of the media? Great? Horton has really lost the face of Australians.

  19. avatar
    mike

    LMAO, Where is Horton’s moral standard when talking about his team mate’s confirmed dope using? Disappointed? not Drug Cheat? moral my ass. Just another double standard hypocrite.

  20. avatar
    mike

    Where is your standard of “One is not guilty until he is proved”. Who give Horton right to call Sun Yang “drug cheat” before the trial and confirmed guilty? No one should insult another person in such way. And some of you call it ‘Great Moral Fibre“? Disgusting.