Sun Yang was an arrogant wild child coddled by his home country and led to believe he could get away with just about anything, writes Pauly Johnson.
Sun Yang was an arrogant wild child coddled by his home country and led to believe he could get away with just about anything, writes Pauly Johnson.

China only has itself to blame in Sun case

Sun Yang laughed in the face of competitors at swimming's world titles in South Korea last year, reportedly telling a British swimmer who refused to take a photograph with him on the podium: "You're a loser. I'm winning, yes."

But now, finally and ultimately, Sun has lost big time and he deserves every bit of it.

While smashing a vial of his own blood with a hammer during a doping test at his home, Sun showed the extraordinary arrogance that's been a hallmark of his career.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport - in contrast to Sun's home nation of China and swimming's governing body FINA who have regularly bent over to accommodate him - took a mallet and smashed his career to pieces.

The eight-year ban they have given the often controversial Chinese star means in effect his once glittering career as a swimmer is over.

Three-time Olympic gold medallist? Forget that, you are a drug cheat - that is your legacy.

The CAS decision to ban Sun is a win for clean sport and also a decision that screamed those in power - at least in Lausanne - will stand up for the rights of clean athletes around the globe, while condemning those who look to flaunt the rules no matter the power they or the country they represent wields.

It is in short the right call, despite how China, a country with an admittedly shady doping record - especially in swimming - reacts.

The heavy ban shouldn't just end Sun's career but serve as a reminder of the danger of allowing someone to consistently and repeatedly bring a sport into disrepute.

TOO MUCH OF A BAD BOY EVEN FOR SWIMMING

Who is losing now? (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)
Who is losing now? (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

From the aforementioned ugliness with Duncan Scott in Gwangju to his Rio dispute with Aussie rival Mack Horton - who shocked Sun to claim gold in the men's 400m freestyle before calling him a drug cheat - China's poster boy has frequently been far from a role model.

In China he is revered - in part it seems for standing up to the western world, if comments directed from Chinese fans on social media towards Horton in the past are anything to go by - but also for his incredible success and high-flying image.

Let's be clear, all Aussie swimmers aren't angels. Grant Hackett's list of out of the pool incidents are testament to that. For all his greatness, so are those of former US star Michael Phelps. But in Sun, swimming had a bad boy the pool deck couldn't stomach.

From 2013 he has been in the spotlight for many of the wrong reasons, whether it was falling out with longtime coach Zhu Zhigen over his relationship with a flight attendant or months later crashing a borrowed Porsche into a bus in his hometown of Hangzhou, while driving without a license.

He also caused an international incident between China and Japan at the 2014 Asian Games, describing the Japanese anthem as "ugly" after losing in the 200m freestyle.

It wasn't a good look and worse was to come that year when it emerged he had quietly served a drug ban.

In November, 2014, the news broke he had tested positive to a banned substance months earlier and Chinese anti-doping authorities (CHINADA) had allowed him to serve a three-month suspension quietly.

He may have gone on to win three golds at the 2015 world titles and one gold at Rio 2016 in the 200m freestyle, but his die was cast as far as the world and his opponents were concerned as French swimmer Camille Lacourt declared "Sun Yang pisses purple" in a thinly veiled reference to doping.

CHINA ONLY HAS ITSELF TO BLAME

China's Sun Yang holds his national flag after winning the gold medal in the men's 1500m at the 2012 Olympics. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, File)
China's Sun Yang holds his national flag after winning the gold medal in the men's 1500m at the 2012 Olympics. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, File)

That CHINADA ban has hung over Sun's head for the past five years and ultimately it was what rightly or wrongly led to his downfall.

The CAS used it in their ruling to point out that he has in the past flaunted the rules of the sport and that he has now got exactly what in their view he deserved.

Perhaps China's chequered history played a part too, despite the Chinese Swimming Association's comical statement on Friday night.

"We are deeply sorry (about the decision)," the CSA said. "The CSA has always held a zero-tolerance stance on doping and attached much importance to athletes' anti-doping education."

Perhaps they've forgotten Yuan Yuan getting caught with enough human growth hormone to service the entire Chinese female swim team at the 1998 Perth World titles.

Friday's ruling was in many ways also an indictment of FINA as CAS openly disagreed with FINA's acceptance of Sun's assertion the doping agents didn't have the correct accreditation.

CAS found the "personnel in charge of the doping control complied with all applicable requirements" and declared "it is one thing, having provided a blood sample, to question the accreditation of the testing personnel while keeping the intact samples in the possession of the testing authorities; it is quite another thing, after lengthy exchanges and warnings as to the consequences, to act in such a way that results in destroying the sample containers".

That's the key to this case.

A swimmer whose home nation tried to sweep his 2014 ban under the carpet and received a warm hug from FINA executive Cornel Macrulescu after winning gold in Rio believed he could get away with anything.

Someone finally said no mate, you can't.

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