Chinese swim star Sun Yang calls on athletes to fight against injustice
The resilience of Sun Yang was once again on display in the Swiss town of Montreux on Friday. Resilience to sit through a near 11 hours of cross-examination and resilience to hold his head high even in the face of such hostility and pre-formed judgments from the international swimming community.
"An athlete with a smooth career may have a good one, but it's the quality of being able to pull oneself together and stay level-headed even after being treated unfairly that defines a great athlete," Sun Yang, the three-time Chinese Olympic swimming champion, said after a marathon public hearing over his alleged anti-doping rule violation.
"This case is destined to take a place in history (of anti-doping), and in my heart for the rest of my life," Sun told Xinhua in an exclusive interview after Friday's hearing.
The hearing was held by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), in which the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) appealed against a previous decision by the world swimming governing body FINA dated January 3, 2019, that ruled that the swimmer was not guilty of a doping rule violation.
After nearly 11 hours of courtroom debate which was marred by poor interpretation, Sun revealed his relief from more than a year's anxiety and pressure forced upon him, his family and even the whole Chinese swimming team that has been made worse by many other groundless accusations and smears in that time.
He said whatever the arbitration results, his case will encourage athletes all over the world to defend their honor and legal rights when being unfairly treated in the future.
"Individual athletes are always the underdogs when defending their legal rights in the face of unfair treatment by sports organizations. That is why I insisted that the hearing be public. I only regret that it was not held much earlier, as I have been waiting too long."
In his final statement in court, Sun said that he had been keeping piles of photos and even video recordings detailing what really happened in his room that night between him and the three anti-doping test officers, but he was not permitted to show them in court.
"That part was not in my prepared written speech though. I wanted to tell them that I had come all the way with nothing to hide and that everything I said in the court stood up to inspection. I would hope that the three anti-doping test officers in question could face me in person today."
"It's a case of an athlete defending the basic rights and privacy that he is legally entitled. It's not out of the question that anti-doping organizations demand from athletes full acceptance of and compliance with anti-doping test procedures. But anti-doping test officers must properly notify the athletes before conducting the procedures that they have the authority and accreditation to do so, as stipulated (in WADA's International Standard for Testing And Investigations)."
Sun won gold in 200m freestyle at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, and 400m and 1,500m freestyle at the 2012 Olympics in London. The 27-year-old also claimed 200m and 400m freestyle titles at the 2019 FINA World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea.
"I can tell that some vicious force was manipulating the public opinion against me and even the whole Chinese swimming team during the world championships in Gwangju," Sun decried.
Less than one month after FINA ruled in January that Sun was not guilty, the confidential decision was leaked and published in the press, despite the fact it had only been disclosed to anti-doping organizations.
Then during the Gwangju world championships, Australian press published details from the ruling. But the failure to publish the full report, only presenting sections out-of-context, distorted facts, misled the public and inflicted huge mental stress upon Sun.
"Accusing an athlete of violating anti-doping rules without proven evidence is extremely disrespectful to an athlete," Sun lamented the injustice upon him and his family.
"The good news is that all the stress is gone now after the hearing," The Chinese swimmer said that from today he will go all out to prepare for the coming races and to repay all those who had offered him support during his difficult time.
"I'm not worried about the final decisions of arbitration. I'm confident that after today, all anti-doping test agencies will stick to the rules closely, which in turn will give much better protection of the legal rights and privacy to all athletes," Sun said, also calling on all athletes to be more courageous to defend themselves by legal means when treated with injustice.