Chinese swimmer ducks questions over smashed samples
Sun Yang is proving to be as hard to catch in the courtroom as he is in the pool after he evaded all the key questions about why he destroyed his blood samples at an out of competition test at his home last year.
Sticking to his argument that he ordered his samples to be smashed because he did not believe the independent testers were properly authorised, Sun was less forthcoming when pressed about the key matters of his case at his Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing in Switzerland.
The hearing was told that Sun has been drug tested 180 times since 2012, 63 times in competition and 117 times out of competition, but when he was asked whether he was aware that refusing to supply a sample or destroying a sample would be regarded as an anti-doping offence, Sun did not answer the simple question.
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"The DCO (Doping Control Officer) never told me this," he said.
"I did not have any idea of what is going on."
Asked why he originally accepted the DCO's credentials and agreed to provide a blood sample only to later change his mind and destroy them, Sun was just as vague with his responses.
"If during the night there was someone, a policeman, come to your house and telling you 'I'm a policeman but I don't have my identification', how would you react? How would you believe?" he asked.
Pressed on the matter, Sun then performed a complete flipturn, changing his official testimony and shifting part of the blame to his doctor.
In his original written testimony, Sun said he authorised the destruction of his samples and he took the bottles out of the sealed container before they were smashed by a security guard.
However, when quizzed at the hearing by one of the three CAS arbitrators, Romano Subiotto, Sun said it was his doctor, Ba Zhen, who gave the orders and subsequently removed the bottles.
"It wasn't me, it was Dr Ba. He is a professional with many years (experience)," Sun said.
"For me, I need to report it to my doctor and my leaders and follow their advice."
Sun's testimony was murky at times because of problems with translating his evidence from Mandarin to English and even though Sun's legal team appointed the translator, his own lawyer Ian Meakin QC expressed his frustration at the apparent errors that were being made.
"That translation was so bad," he grumbled.
However, Sun, dressed in a suit and tie and with a fresh haircut, did appear to understand some of the questions, which only added to the confusion about why he was so unclear on the critical issues.
There was no misunderstanding from the World Anti-Doping Agency's deputy director Stuart Kemp who was crystal clear in his testimony that the paperwork the testers showed Sun was satisfactory to carry out their duties.
That looms as the key issue in this case after Sun was cleared of any wrongdoing in his initial hearing because of a technicality over paperwork.
The role of Ba, who was also scheduled to appear as a witness, is also emerging as pivotal if, as it appears, he was calling the shots.
Sun's doctor since he was a child, Ba has already twice been banned because of doping offences, including providing the banned heart medication to Sun that resulted in the swimmer receiving a three-month suspension in 2014.
Under anti-doping procedures, Ba should not have even been present at Sun's out of competition test but showed up after Sun became suspicious about the testers when one of them wanted to take a photograph of him.
Sun's Aussie coach Cotterell shows public support
Australian swim coach Dennis Cotterell made a surprise appearance at Sun's appeal, planting himself in the front row of the public seats in a show of support for the under fire Chinese champion.
Cotterell has been hammered in Australia for his unwavering support for the hot-tempered Chinese Olympic champion in his long-running spat with Aussie superstar Mack Horton. but with his career on the line, Cotterell is standing by his man.
"I'm here as his friend to support him because I believe in him," Cotterell told News Corp Australia.
"He's done nothing wrong and when the facts come out people will understand that."
Sun could be banned for up to eight years if the Court of Arbitration finds him guilty of breaching anti-doping regulations when he smashed his own blood samples with a hammer at an out of competition test in China late last year.
He was cleared when initially investigated by a panel appointed by swimming's world governing body FINA but the World Anti-Doping Agency appealed, prompting Sun to hold an appeal in public to clear his name.
"The things that have been said and written about him have been very unfair," Cotterell said.
"People have no idea what he has gone through even though he has done nothing wrong and that's what I'm here to support him.
"I believe in him but this is also about humanity. When the facts all come out I hope people will start to show him more respect."
[Nov 14 2019] Sun Yang Toutiao Update : "Arrived at Montreux and walked along the shores of Lake Geneva with Dennis. Over these years, we have experienced many ups and downs in our career. For this time, we are still fighting side by side."#SunYang #孙杨 #孫楊 pic.twitter.com/1CS33NjCtz— Sun Yang International Fans (@SunYangIntlFans) November 14, 2019
Cotterell has not been called as a witness in Sun's case because he was not present when the altercation with the doping testers took place in Sun's home but has been constantly by his side since arriving in Europe.
The pair spent Friday (EDT) walking along the shoreline of Lake Geneva. Sun posted a picture of the pair together with a caption in Mandarin thanking Cotterell for his support.
"Arrived at Montreux and walked along the shores of Lake Geneva with Dennis," Sun said.
"Over these years, we have experienced many ups and downs in our career. For this time, we are still fighting side by side."
- Julian Linden