China – Cheating at Sea and in the Pool

In many ways, swimmer Sun Yang might be the apt symbol of the rising China: brash, arrogant, muscling his way to the top; but also probably a cheat, one who bends the rules as he sees fit, and increasingly loathed by his peers.

Sun has already been caught as a drug cheat: a three-month suspension in 2014 after testing positive for trimetazidine, a banned stimulant. But the fact that he has been allowed to compete in the current world championships in South Korea even after his entourage smashed vials of blood samples with a hammer following a surprise drug-testing visit, has other competitors’ backs well and truly up.

Australian swimmer Mack Horton made his feelings clearly known at the medals ceremony for the 400m freestyle when he refused to take the podium as Sun was awarded the gold medal. Horton’s stance appears to have the backing of other swimmers.

When Horton returned­ to the athletes’ dining quarters moments later, the response­ from his peers — many of whom have also felt the sting of defeat to rivals who are suspected of taking performance-enhancing drugs — was resounding.

“We were kind of waiting around for that awards ceremony to see what was going to happen — and, yeah, it was awesome,’’ said American 100m breaststroke Olympic champion Lilly King, who like Horton has long been an outspoken critic of drug cheats.

“When he walked in … the whole dining hall erupted in applaus­e, so it was great to see the athletes united on his stance and supporting him as well.”

Horton’s teammate Mitch Larkin stood foursquare behind him…“We are all fighting for a clean sport.”

Other Olympians from Australia and overseas took to social media to support ­ Horton.

Swimmer Cate Campbell tweeted: “Taking a stand for clean sport. Mack Horton we salute you.”…British Olympian Chris Walker-Hebborn tweeted: “What an absolute legend, Mack Horton, you will always be the real champ.”

Not unsurprisingly, China’s tightly-controlled media has its nose out of joint – and responded with distinctly nationalist rhetoric.

Even Australia does not deserve to be an adversary of a new China, not to ­mention such an insignificant swimmer like him. We beat him, that’s enough.”

But competitors from other countries are also joining in the protests.

FINA has formally reprimanded both China’s Sun Yang and Briton Duncan Scott for “inadequate behaviour” at the victory ceremony for the men’s 200m freestyle at the world titles as swimming’s world governing body slowly realises it is facing outright rebellion from its elite athletes.

Sun didn’t actually come first: the actual first-comer was disqualified for moving on the blocks at the start.

Then Sun showed why he is largely despised by the swimming population at large, not just for his drug record but because of his general behaviour.

While Rapsys was still leaving the pool, angry and distraught, Sun mounted the lane ropes and began an exuberant celebration of his ‘victory’ […] But that was nothing compared to what followed at the victory ceremony. Scott, who deadheated for the bronze with Russia’s Martin Malyutiun as a result of Rapsys’s ejection from the race, refused to shake Sun’s hand. He certainly stayed on the podium during the playing of the Chinese national anthem but he clearly kept his distance from Sun […] But as the athletes were leaving the ceremony, Sun broke ranks and retraced his steps to confront Scott. “You loser, I am winning,” he appeared to say to the bemused Scot.
Sun berates Scottish swimmer Duncan Scott.

China is writing the rules to suit itself in the South China Sea, by creating fake, man-made “islands” and then declaring an exclusion zone around them to bar all other shipping, and accusing everyone else of “breaching its sovereignty”. It seems that kind of attitude is permeating Chinese society on more than one level.