Australian swimmer and Olympic champion Mack Horton is in the spotlight again for refusing to shake hands and stand on the same podium with Chinese swimmer Sun Yang at the 2019 World Aquatics Championships in Gwangju, South Korea on Sunday.
Video and pictures from the championship event shows Horton refusing to stand beside Sun, who won the world 400 meter freestyle title.
According to The Guardian, Horton expressed how unhappy he was when Sun had been allowed to compete ahead of a Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing this September. The Chinese swimmer was accused of smashing vials containing his blood samples during a clash last year with testers who came to his home in Zhejiang province, China for an out-of-competition test.
On Tuesday, British swimmer Duncan Scott also refused to share the podium with Yang, who reacted angrily and reportedly called Scott a “loser” while referring to himself as a “winner,” according to CNN.
Swimming’s world body, FINA, had cleared Sun to compete, but the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) made an appeal at the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which is where the hearing will take place in September, Fox Sports reported.
Their rivalry began during the 2016 Rio Olympics when Horton called Sun a “drug cheat,” but it escalated even more when Sun took home the gold for the 400 meter freestyle at the event. The 27-year-old Chinese swimmer received a doping ban for three months in 2014.
Sun expressed that what Horton’s stance showed on Sunday was disrespectful to China.
“It was unfortunate because disrespecting me is OK but disrespecting China was very unfortunate and I felt sorry about that,” Sun said.
Sun’s lawyers said on Friday that they are demanding a public hearing “to be fully transparent and to clear his name” and had accused Australia’s Sunday Telegraph of publishing “an incomplete and biased account of the drug testing on Sun Yang” and defaming the swimmer, a report from China’s Xinhua said via Fox Sports.
While some of Horton’s fellow swimmers applauded his gesture on Sunday after the medal ceremony, FINA sent out an official warning to Horton and to Swimming Australia.
“The Fina executive met today in Gwangju to analyse the situation related with the men’s 400m free victory ceremony and has decided to send a warning letter to Swimming Australia and to Mack Horton,” the statement reads, via The Guardian.
“While Fina respects the principle of freedom of speech, it has to be conducted in the right context. As in all major sports organisations, our athletes and their entourages are aware of their responsibilities to respect Fina regulations and not use Fina events to make personal statements or gestures. The matter over which Mack Horton was allegedly protesting is currently under review by [the Court of Arbitration for Sport] and therefore it is not appropriate for Fina to prejudice this hearing by commenting further.”
Images screenshot via YouTube / The Guardian