swimming star Sun Yang threatened legal action against a British
newspaper on Sunday over claims that he faced a lifetime ban after
allegedly clashing with anti-doping testers and smashing a vial of blood
with a hammer.
The 27-year-old, who has won Olympic gold in the 200m, 400m and
1 500m freestyle and is also a multiple world champion, strongly refuted
the accusations contained in The Sunday Times.
The newspaper alleged that a confrontation took place and Sun - who
was banned for three months in 2014 for taking a stimulant - missed an
out-of-competition test on September 4 at his home in Zhejiang province.
"A clash with anti-doping testers ended in him and his security guard
using a hammer to smash a sealed vial containing the swimmer's blood,"
The Sunday Times reported.
After the story broke, Sun's lawyer Zhang Qihuai issued a statement
saying that the newspaper had "a malign intention" and "severely damaged
Sun Yang's reputation and violated his privacy".
"We reserve the right to file a lawsuit against the relevant
international media which reported the incident," the statement added,
according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.
The statement stressed that a doping panel for FINA, swimming's world
governing body, ruled in Sun's favour on January 3 and said that
testers for IDTM - the body which conducts tests - had breached
Those included failing to produce authorisation letters and a nursing
licence, the lawyer said, so Sun elected to reject the testing.
"And they fabricated an untruthful report claiming Sun Yang broke
anti-doping rules and sent it to FINA," said the statement, making no
mention about a smashed blood vial or hammer.
Zhang separately said Sunday in an interview, according to Xinhua:
"Sun is entitled to reject any invalid doping test and safeguard the
reputation and integrity of Chinese athletes."
The Sunday Times also noted that FINA had cleared Sun, but said that
the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) "has demanded to know more about the
The newspaper added that the doping panel "handed him (Sun) a series
of cautions" and cited the panel as saying that his avoiding an
anti-doping rule violation was "a close-run thing".
Sun is one of China's greatest-ever athletes and an Olympic and world-record holder.
But he has faced controversy on several occasions and previously
indulged in a long-standing war of words with Australian rival Mack
Emotions boiled over at the 2016 Rio Olympics when Horton branded Sun
"a drug cheat" in reference to the Chinese star's 2014 ban.
Sun maintains that he took the banned stimulant for a heart complaint.
He is hugely popular in China, however, and Sun received the backing
on Sunday from the country's swimming association, which said that he
had cooperated fully with FINA over September's incident.
The China Swimming Association "has zero tolerance towards doping", it said in a statement.
"The association will continue to strengthen anti-doping work and strictly abide by anti-doping regulations," it added.
Later Sunday, Xinhua published what it said was a copy of a letter from Sun's lawyer demanding an apology and retraction.
The Sunday Times story was "an infringement on Mr. Sun Yang's right
of reputation and privacy" because the FINA doping panel had stated that
the case should not be made public, the letter said.