TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A Chinese swimmer with a record of doping caught the media's attention this week after an outburst targeting a fellow competitor at the 2019 World Aquatics Championships in Gwangju, South Korea.
Chinese swimmer, Sun Yang, lashed out at British swimmer, Duncan Scott, on Wednesday (July 23) during the award ceremony for the 200m freestyle, yelling “I’m a winner, you’re a loser” at Scott from the winner’s podium. Sun is currently awaiting an arbitration hearing in September over recent allegations of continued doping but has still been permitted to compete.
Sun was upset because Scott failed to congratulate him on his gold medal victory and declined to share the podium with him as a sign of solidarity with Australian swimmer Mack Horton, who made the same gesture of protest the day before (July 22).
Mack Horton refuses to take the stage with Sun Yang, July 22 (Associated Press photo)
Horton came in second place behind Sun in Monday’s 400m freestyle competition. Horton chose to snub Sun’s victory and refused to share the podium as a way to protest Sun’s participation in the World Aquatics Championships after he was previously banned for doping in 2014.
After Monday’s race, the Australian swimmer’s social media was flooded with disrespectful messages from Chinese netizens. Perceiving his action as an insult to China, rather than as an individual protest against Sun, they insulted Horton and his family and even threatened violence, reports the Guardian.
The world’s governing body of international swimming, FINA, sent warning letters to Horton and Swimming Australia reprimanding them for Horton’s actions. However, the Australian public has generally rallied behind Horton.
Leigh Russell, the head of Swimming Australia, has also voiced support for Horton’s protest. “Swimming Australia respects the position Mack Horton took during the medal ceremony and understands his sense of frustration,” she said, as reported by the Guardian.
Horton and Sun have been feuding over the doping scandal and Sun’s continued admission to international events since the 2016 Olympics. Adding fuel to the fire, and to the anger of many in the international swimming community in 2017, Sun Yang reportedly smashed vials of his blood in a clash with swimming officials during a random drug screening.
Duncan Scott refuses to take the podium with Sun on July 23 (Associated Press photo)
In the 200m freestyle race on Tuesday, Sun again received a gold medal after the first finisher, Lithuania's Danas Rapsys, was disqualified for a false start. The disqualification also meant that British swimmer Duncan Scott received a bronze medal, tying for third place with Russian swimmer Martin Malyutin.
Given the spotlight, Scott, like Horton the day before, refused to celebrate or acknowledge Sun’s victory, which incensed the Chinese swimmer. In a video of the incident, Sun can be seen yelling and approaching Scott in an intimidating manner.
Scott has since said he is “on Team Mack” and does not think Sun should be permitted to compete after his previous doping violations. “If he can't respect our sport, then why should I respect him? I think a lot of people, everyone in swimming, got behind what Mack did,” Scott was quoted by the BBC as saying.