Sun Yang Urine Watcher Changes His Story: “I Was Never Trained”, Despite Signing To Say He Was

The Chinese Doping Control Assistant (DCA) tasked with witnessing Sun Yang produce a urine sample on what turned into an acrimonious four-hour dispute through the night with a team of international out-of-competition testers last year, is reported by state media in China as having changed his story.

Reported as having refused to testify to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) hearing last Friday in Montreux, Switzerland, the DCA, exercising his right to anonymity, now tells Xinhua that he had offered himself as a witness but had not been called to the CAS hearing.

Further, he is reported to have said that he was never trained for the role of DCA. The question that follows is clear: which version of events from the DCA and others is a lie?

His signature is on an agency Statement of Confidentiality (SoC) confirming his appointment, the training he had received from the DCO and agreeing to standard confidentiality provisions. He would now appear to have broken those.

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Tudor Popa of IDTM

From the stand in Montreux, Tudor Popa, of the IDTM testing agency hired by FINA for its out-of-competition testing program and the body whose Statement of Confidentiality the DCA signed, swore on oath that the DCA was trained for the role.

Sun’s argument with the DCA is well documented in the swimmer’s explanation as to why he refused to provide a urine sample at the testing mission on the night of September 4-5.

The DCA had shown his national identification card. Experts from and witnesses for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) maintain that an ID card was all that is required and was required on 64,000 other IDTM testing occasions across 30 sports (19,000 of them in swimming) under the terms of the International Standards for Testing and Investigations (ISTI).

Sun’s counsel argued that WADA best-practice guidelines require more “documentation” from testing officers than the paperwork provided on September 4, 2018. However, WADA’s guidelines state clearly that they are not legally binding and that the ISTI is the rule that must be observed. That was backed up by the FINA Doping Panel report of January 2019 when judge wrote in their caution to Sun Yang:

“The Athlete’s entourage continually asserted that the IDTM DCA should have presented to the Athlete DCO accreditation and related authorizations. This is absolutely not required – despite testimony that in China it is standard for all individuals who attend at a sample collection session to be trained as DCOs. In the ISTI, and for all tests performed by other Sample Collection Authorities while in China, it is perfectly proper for DCAs or Chaperones to perform their limited roles and tasks with no DCO accreditation. This so-called “higher standard” claimed by the Athlete’s witnesses is not required in the ISTI, and is absolutely not a justification to refuse to accept the credentials of an otherwise properly authorized DCA, who is not a DCO.”

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Sun Yang – Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

That FINA Doping Panel report also set out what happened beyond Sun assuming more “documentation” was required:

The Athlete was not satisfied with the DCA’s identification card. The Athlete complained that this was not proper authorization for a DCA. The DCO explained repeatedly to the Athlete that she had appointed the DCA and that she had trained the DCA to perform the specific tasks that he was responsible for during this testing mission (to merely witness the passing and collection of urine). The DCO told the Athlete that the DCA had signed an IDTM document called a Statement of Confidentiality (SoC) confirming his appointment, the training he had received from the DCO and agreeing to standard confidentiality provisions. The BCA had signed a similar IDTM SoC. However, the SoC documents were considered internal IDTM documents and the DCO did not have them with her. Both of the signed SoC were filed with the Doping Panel.

“The Athlete did not accept that the DCA was properly authorized by IDTM and insisted that the DCA leave the doping control station. Much discussion ensued. The Athlete took pictures of the DCA’s identification card and sent the pictures to unknown persons. The Athlete’s mother threatened the DCO, claiming that she had police contacts and could determine if the DCA was, in fact, properly authorized to test her son. In the result, at the Athlete’s insistence, the DCA was excluded from the doping control station.”

Construction Worker And The Testimony That Appears to Be A Work In Progress

Now, two Xinhua reports in the past 24 hours have made much of the DCA being a “construction worker”. Doping control agents working for the likes of IDTM can and do come from any walk of life the world over.

Xinhua’s report all but equates the man’s profession with the status he would need to observe urine being passed as a DCA, who “said he was not a trained professional Doping Control Assistant (DCA), but a construction worker.”

Xinhua adds: “The DCA, who insisted on anonymity, revealed he had provided his testimony by a written letter in Chinese to CAS and WADA several days before the public hearing.

“I am a builder and I am always busy at work, day and night. No one ever trained me about the doping test, and it is unnecessary for me to undertake such training. I agreed to give my words at a video conference before the public hearing as they requested. I was ready, but no one had ever contacted me about this.”

That statement raises several questions, including the obvious contradiction in statements older and newer and an absence of any insistence from Sun’s counsel at the hearing that the DCA should be heard. One key question is why journalists were told that the DCA had refused to attend the hearing in Montreux if the man now says he was willing to participate but never called.

The answers may well for part of the paperwork and evidence that was not presented at the hearing but will form part of the deliberations of the panel of three CAS judges, along with what WADA counsel Rich Young described as a folder “heavy on red lines” marking the places where witnesses, including Sun, Dr Ba and others, had “changed their stories in the past six months.”

Tampering

Sun Yang – Photo Courtesy: Joao Marc Bosch

One such changed story cuts to the heart of the WADA case against Sun. The chief charge revealed by Young in Montreux was of tampering, namely with a blood sample that the swimmer had approved and was already a part of the chain of custody at the moment Dr Ba Zhen, a twice-banned doctor representing the athlete, removed the sample from that chain of custody.

The container housing the blood sample was subsequently smashed with a hammer on the pavement outside the control room and no sample, neither blood nor urine, would ever be sent to an anti-doping laboratory for analysis.

In original testimony, Sun was said to have taken back the blood container from the DCO and the chain of custody. Sun had said that it was the DCO herself who had given him the container. That evidence has since been removed from the record, according to Young, while in Montreux Sun stated from the stand that it had been Dr Ba who had taken the sample.

On the stand in his turn Dr. Ba – who in 2014 and 2015 received two suspensions from WADA for prescribing Sun with a prohibited substance and then working with the athlete at the Asian Games at a time when he should have been serving his first suspension – first said he could not recall who took the blood container back from the chain of custody.

When reminded of Sun’s testimony a few hours before, Dr Ba agreed that he had been the man who had taken the sample back from the chain of custody after having spoken on the phone to Dr Han Zhaoqi, the deputy director of the Zhejiang anti-doping agency who also serves as a science chief on Sun’s team and has also performed that role for the Chinese Olympic team. Dr Han is the chief doctor at the hospital where Dr Ba works.

The Big Star, The Fan & Doping Officer, His Smartphone and ID

Meanwhile, the DCA, who was criticised from all sides for taking “fan” photos of Sun on his smartphone, claimed back in January that the DCO, a former school classmate, had called on him to provide temporary help on the mission of September 4, 2018. The DCA is reported by Xinhua to have said:

“Sun is a big star in China and it was my first time being near him. I was excited. I took a couple of pictures outside the room with my cellphone. When I tried to take pictures of him again when we were sitting in the room, Sun told me not to do so. Then he asked every one of us to identify ourselves. I showed my ID card. Sun pointed out that I was not an accredited tester and should not stay in the test room.”

He recalled the September 4 test in these terms: “She called me to pick up her at the railway station and drove her to Sun’s home at that night. In fact, there was another lady with the DCO at the station. She was the BCA (Blood Collection Assistant). Before we entered the test room, the DCO asked me to escort Sun into the bathroom. As my understanding, she was asking me to watch Sun Yang urinating. Because both of them were ladies, I agreed.”

Those words and descriptions give the impression of a man who had never been called on to serve as a DCA before. However, in Montreal, WADA counsel noted, with no objection raised, that the DCA had been on other test missions before and had signed the agreement confirming his status and that he had been trained.

The relentless pressure on the three Chinese anti-doping testing officers – including the DCO and the Blood Collection Assistant (BCA) – at the heart of the case is tangible. Three CAS judges are reviewing all evidence before them ahead of a verdict and report that will not be ready before January.

Among concerns over “issues of intimidation and protection”, as Young put it, the DCO was threatened with a police visit on the mission last year; “spoken down and never allowed to finish her sentence” every time she attempted to warn of the risk that she would have to register a violation of “refusal” to comply with testing, said Young; and was given a ‘friendly’ reminder by Hao Cheng, the head of the Chinese Swimming Association, that another DCO who registered a “refusal” was sacked.

Blood Test

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Brent Rychener, WADA Counsel

Huangfen Lin, the BCA, is the only officer named and the officer coming under the greatest pressure, with Chinese sources claiming that she has been intimidated and threatened.

That aspect of the case was raised by WADA in Montreux when the cross examined Prof Pei Wang, a witness for Sun brought in to explain that Huangfen Lin now faced a jail sentence for having drawn blood in a region of China beyond the Shanghai province she is licensed to practice in.

WADA raised objection to the witness, who, said Brent Rychener, counsel for WADA, was “giving his opinion” not sticking to the facts. Though the comment was not fully explained, Rychener asked Pei whether a digital copy (on a smartphone) of an add-on supplement to a nursing licence allowing a nurse to practice beyond the province of his/her original licence would be accepted as accreditation.

Pei said “no”, only the original certificate would be accepted.

It was assumed from that exchange that Huangfen Lin’s practice certificates (more than one was referred to in Montreux) may include a supplementary accreditation that was not presented to the hearing in public but may form part of the evidence before judges in the weeks ahead of judgement.

Head Of CAS Says Sun Has ‘Nothing to Complain About’

Meanwhile, in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald addressing complaints from the Sun Yang team about the arbitration process, the president of the CAS, John Coates, has defended the integrity of the hearing in Montreux, saying responsibility for translations lies with the appearing parties and the Chinese star could have asked for the case to be heard over a longer period. Sun had ‘little to complain about…’..