Australian swimmer Mack Horton has spoken out for the first time after bitter rival, China’s Sun Yang, was handed an eight-year ban from the sport.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled on Friday night that Sun, a three-time Olympic freestyle champion, broke doping rules after smashing vials of his blood during a test.
'KNOW THE TRUTH': Sun Yang takes action against 'unfair' ban
'OH DEAR': Cyclist stunned after celebrating too soon
Horton, who labelled Yang a ‘drug cheat’ at the 2016 Rio Olympics and refused to share the podium with Yang and the 2019 FINA World Championships, said the ruling was a win for clean athletes in an interview with 7NEWS.
“I think regardless of the outcome, it was always going to be a statement to the world and my stance has always been about clean sport never about nations or individuals,” Horton said.
“I’m just a guy still chasing the dream...we’ve got a job to do this morning and we’ll just keep going.”
Horton is in the midst of preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Athletes around the world react to Sun Yan ban
Predictably, news of Sun Yang’s ban from the sport drew a considerable reaction from athletes around the world.
Many Australian sporting personalities in particular, took the CAS decision as vindication of Mack Horton’s stance against Yang’s ongoing permission to compete.
Swimming legend Ian Thorpe said the decision was a just one.
“I definitely supported Mack’s stance at the Olympics and I also felt that the sport should’ve done a better job in making sure there was never a situation where Mack had to stand up on the podium in the first place,” Thorpe said.
Australian swimming coach Jacco Verhaeren said the decision was vindication for Horton, but that the star Aussie swimmer would not be distracted by the verdict.
“Mack is a very focused athlete, he’s not easily distracted and he won’t be distracted by this either. He has dealt with situations like this before and never gets distracted so he won’t be in this case.”
Many other athletes took to social media in support of the decision, and of Horton himself.
— Cameron Williams (@camjwilliams) February 28, 2020
Sun Yang is the real loser tho 🤷♀️ https://t.co/dJ3Zh5zECU
— Beth Potter (@beth_potter) February 28, 2020
Sun Yang banned.
Mack Horton vindicated.
What a beautiful moment.
— Alexander Grant (@AlexGrantOz) February 28, 2020
English swimmer Duncan Scott who, like Horton, refused to share the podium with Yang, released his own statement in support of the ruling.
“I fully respect and support the decision that has been made and announced by the Court of Arbitration for Sport,” he wrote.
“I believe in clean sport and a level playing field for all athletes and I trust in CAS and WADA to uphold these values.”
Scott shot to prominence after an ugly exchange with Yang after their podium ceremony, in which the Chinese swimmer angrily pointed at the Englishman before declaring ‘You’re a loser. I’m a winner’.