Chinese fans began trolling Australian swimming star Mack Horton online for speaking about Chinese swimmer Sun Yang’s drug-related past after defeating him on Friday.
According to the Daily Mail, the 400m freestyle Olympic gold medalist spoke against his Chinese rival right after his win, saying: “Sun Yang is just the drugs cheat.”
Yang reportedly served a previously undisclosed three-month suspension in 2014 after testing positive to an illegal substance. The penalty was only made public much later.
In response to Horton’s statements, Chinese fans began delivering abusive language online at Horton, wishing him death and calling him random names, such as “Loser”, “Disgusting”, “Stupid Pig,” among others.
“You are a loser for a lifetime because of your disrespect and the lose [sic] of the Olympic Spirit and international reputation,” one angry fan posted on Horton’s Instagram account.
“You are too complacent and will die quickly,” a Chinese fan wrote.
“It can be a big shame on your whole country,” another one said.
One even went as far as hoping Horton would be “killed by a local kangaroo.”
With all the hate Horton has been getting from his statement, he later told reporters that he did not regret calling out Yang for his doping history.
“I don’t think it is a big statement because it is true, he has tested positive,” he said. “No athlete has really come forward and said it. It wouldn’t have felt right if I raced against someone who had tested positive and didn’t bring it up. Hopefully others will follow.”
During a training session last week, the Chinese swimmer also reportedly taunted Horton by splashing water on his face.
“It got played up a bit but he splashed me to say hi and I ignored him, I don’t have time or respect for drug cheats,” the 20-year-old gold medalist said. ”He wasn’t too happy about that so he kept splashing me and I just got in and did my thing.”
In the post match interview, Horton expressed that he was against drug cheats in general and not just Yang in particular.
“Definitely a win for the good guys,” he said after their match. ”I don’t know if it’s a rivalry between me and him, just me and athletes who have tested positive.”
The very close match ended with Horton clocking 3:41.55 seconds to win the Olympic gold for the 400m category, beating defending champion Yang, who finished with 3:41.68 seconds.
“To be honest everyone thinks the same way,” Australian head coach Jacco Verhaeren said, echoing Horton’s stance against drug cheats. ”As a swimming organisation we have zero tolerance to drugs. It’s the same as saying we don’t like drug cheats.”