'I am a builder': Sun Yang doping case takes sensational twist

Riley Morgan
Sports Reporter

The Sun Yan trial taking place in Switzerland has taken a bizarre twist after Chinese state media reported one of the doping agents that visited the Chinese swimmer was a construction worker.

One of China’s biggest Olympic stars fought Friday for his right to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Games during a rare public hearing that turned combative at times, as champion swimmer Yang defended his refusal to complete a doping test last year.

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The case stems from the three-time Olympic champion’s refusal to cooperate with three anti-doping officials during a random test that became a confrontation in the early morning hours at his home in China in September 2018.

But Xinhua News Agency, China’s official state-run media agency and self-proclaimed biggest news organisation in the country, reported an unnamed man claimed he was one of the doping officials and was not qualified to undertake the procedure.

Sun Yang's hearing with WADA is underway in Switzerland. (Getty Images)

"I am a builder and I am always busy at work, day and night. No one ever trained me about the doping test, and it is unnecessary for me to undertake such training."

"I agreed to give my words at a video conference before the public hearing as they requested. I was ready, but no one had ever contacted me about this,” he said.

The twist comes as a long hearing on Friday was embroiled in controversy after translation issues.

Interpretation issues

Last Friday, during a 10-hour session marred at times by translation problems, Sun maintained that inspectors drawing blood and urine samples failed to have proper identification papers.

The interpretation issues in both English and Chinese brought a halt to the landmark Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing several times, frustrating lawyers for both sides during Sun’s opening cross-examination. Sun’s mother later took the stand, at one point admonishing lawyers, “I haven’t finished yet.”

One lawyer said he could not tell if Sun was being evasive or if it was simply a case of misunderstood translation.

“During inspection, I realised they don’t have any authorised papers to prove their identification,” Sun testified Friday.

A World Anti-Doping Agency expert disputed Sun’s account, saying the inspectors’ credentials were in order.

Swimmer Sun Yang from China is seen on a video screen as he speaks during a public hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Montreux, Switzerland, Friday, Nov. 15 2019. (AP)

A tribunal appointed by the swimming world body FINA initially gave Sun only a caution, but WADA appealed the case to CAS. Its judges are not expected to hand down a verdict until next year. If the ruling goes against him, Sun could be banned from the 2020 Olympics.

The 6-foot, 7-inch (2-meter) Sun became a star in China as the country’s first man to win an Olympic title in swimming. He won gold medals in the 400- and 1,500-meter freestyle races at the 2012 London Olympics. He added gold in the 200 at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The 27-year-old Sun, who also has 11 world championship titles, has been a polarizing figure in the sport.

In Rio, one Australian rival called him a drug cheat as anger built over a three-month ban for his positive test in 2014 that some considered too lenient. The ban was initially kept secret by Chinese authorities and FINA, which some accused of appearing to protect one of its biggest names in a key market.

Sun provoked more anger among rivals by winning two world titles in July while the CAS appeal was pending. Medalists from Australia and Britain refused to stand on the podium with him in Gwangju, South Korea.