FRATTINI! WHAT A STAR!
Sun Yang’s eight-year doping ban has been spectacularly overturned on appeal.
In a decision that will rock swimming – in particular in Australia where the Chinese freestyle champion has become a villain – Sun has won the right to have his case reheard before next year’s Olympics.
The 29-year-old successfully challenged the neutrality of one of the members of the panel that effectively ended his professional career at a Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing in February.
The World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA), which had fought to ban Sun from swimming after he twice drew the ire of doping officials, responded to the latest decision by welcoming the opportunity to present its case against Sun again.
It noted: “The Swiss Federal Tribunal’s decision upholds a challenge against the chair of the CAS Panel and makes no comment on the substance of this case.”
Franco Frattini, the former Italian foreign minister, appears to have been the subject of Sun’s appeal.
Reports in China had highlighted his perceived unprofessional manner in what was at times a circus of a hearing.
Frattini was heard making a joke about Sun Yang’s mother when she was called to give evidence, saying “A very strong witness, ha ha”.
But he also appears to have been exposed by a number of comments on social media that included anti-Chinese sentiment.
They included Twitter posts from 2018 and 2019 where he expressed his disdain for animal cruelty in China.
“This yellow face chinese monster smiling while torturing a small dog, deserves the worst of the hell!!! Shame on China, pretending to be a superpower and tolerating these horrors!” he wrote in May last year.
While a tweet from 2018 said: “Hell forever for those bastard sadic chinese who brutally killed dogs and cats in Yulin, with the complicity of the chinese authorities.”
Sun, who won the 400m and 1500m freestyle in London and the 200m in Rio, first served a doping suspension in 2014 after testing positive to a drug he said he was using to treat heart palpitations and was unaware had recently been added to the banned list.
Australian swimmer Mack Horton spoke out against Sun at the Rio Olympics and his protest appeared to be validated when his rival was accused of refusing to provide blood and urine samples when drug testers visited his home in China in September, 2018.
In February, The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) handed down an eight-year ban for “manipulation” of an anti-doping test sample, effectively ending the Chinese star’s professional career.
Sun’s CAS hearing, the first in 20 years that was open to the public, was beset by technical difficulties and interpreting errors between Chinese and English which frustrated lawyers and held up proceedings.
Sun’s lawyers lodged an appeal last month, challenging the technical and procedural grounds of the verdict, which WADA confirmed was successful.
“The World Anti-Doping Agency has been informed of the decision of the Swiss Federal Tribunal to uphold the revision application filed by Chinese swimmer Sun Yang and to set aside the 20 February 2020 award of a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) Panel,” it said in a statement.
“The case is in relation to WADA’s successful appeal against the original Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) disciplinary panel decision following an incident that led to a doping control involving Sun Yang not being completed as planned.
“The Swiss Federal Tribunal’s decision upholds a challenge against the Chair of the CAS Panel and makes no comment on the substance of this case.
“WADA will take steps to present its case robustly again when the matter returns to the CAS Panel, which will be chaired by a different president.
“At this stage, WADA has not received the Tribunal’s full reasoned decision and therefore cannot comment further.”
The decision means Sun is free to resume swimming until his case is heard by a different CAS panel.
ABC reporter Bill Birltes tweeted: “Yet another twist in the years-long Sun Yang saga - his 8 year ban overturned due to claims of racism among a member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport ... but he hasn’t been cleared. He’ll have to face a new panel all over again to decide his fate.”