China hits back at Mack Horton
MACK Horton's bitter rivalry with Sun Yang is set to intensify as Chinese media hit out at the Aussie for protesting at the World Championships.
It comes as former CEO of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) Richard Ings has elaborated on why he believes the swimming star was out of line to snub his nemesis.
Horton, who won the silver medal in the 400m freestyle, refused to stand on the podium alongside gold medallist Yang, and also refused to shake his Chinese rival's hand.
The pair's bad blood goes back to the 2016 Olympics, when Horton said he had "no time or respect for drug cheats" after Yang served a three-month doping ban in 2014.
Yang also recently escaped sanction following accusations he smashed vials of his blood with a hammer when visited by drug testers last year. He is awaiting a hearing with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to see whether he will face any punishment - including a potential lifetime ban - after the World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA) appealed the initial not-guilty verdict, which was reached by an independent panel of swimming's governing body FINA.
Horton has had to deal with a savage reaction from China over his controversial protest, which has seen him and his girlfriend inundated with death threats on social media.
The comments about Horton ranged from calling him a "fat Aussie pig" to a "pathetic loser" and "disgusting".
According to AAP, The China Daily led the country's chorus of disapproval, saying: "Horton's behaviour was not an insult to Chinese athletes, but an insult to himself."
The Australian reports The China Daily also said Horton showed a "lack of respect" which was "violated the spirit of sports".
"His behaviour will make his silver medal less glorious," the publication allegedly added.
However, Swimming Australia CEO Leigh Russell is standing by Horton.
"Swimming Australia respects the position Mack Horton took during the medal ceremony and understands his sense of frustration," she said in a statement, as reported by AAP.
Horton and Yang will contest the 800m heats on Tuesday, writing another chapter in their bitter feud which will provide more drama if they both qualify for the final.
While many - including a host of fellow swimmers - have publicly praised Horton for taking a stand, Ings believes the Aussie was in the wrong.
The strong advocate for getting rid of doping in sport, who was CEO of ASADA from 2005-2010, has been active on Twitter about his concerns with the protest and gave a radio interview on Monday night where he further explained his position.
Ings said Horton was wading into dangerous territory because whatever he thinks of Yang, he hasn't technically been found guilty of anything in relation to his latest controversy.
"Athletes are innocent unless and until an anti-doping tribunal finds them guilty, and in the case of Sun Yang, there was an incident regarding a refusal (to provide a blood sample), a very contentious incident," Ings said on SEN's The Sporting Capital.
"This matter was heard by a FINA anti-doping panel. They heard arguments from both sides, the panel handed down a 59-page reason decision, where they found that Sun Yang had not violated anti-doping rules.
"That's going to be appealed by WADA to CAS. Where we stand today is he's had his matter heard and he's been found innocent of all charges.
"The FINA panel found that a refusal to provide a sample in this particular situation did not fall afoul of the anti-doping rules and I have to say in all of my years at ASADA, and even recently as a witness for particular athletes at CAS hearings, I have seen other situations where drug testers have failed to follow proper procedures and proper protocols and anti-doping panels have dismissed allegations against athletes for those good reasons."
Ings said Yang's three-month ban in 2014 was for a minor infraction, believing authorities got the punishment right. He also said, while the situation surrounding Yang allegedly destroying blood samples is murky, Horton shouldn't be rushing to cast judgment on his rival until the CAS hearing takes place.
"One thing I do not like is when athletes are involved in making allegations against other athletes who have not, at that particular point in time, been found guilty of committing an anti-doping rule violation," Ings said.
"We have to wait for the CAS hearing to see whether CAS will take a different view.
"The athlete beside him is contentious, he has mixed reviews in terms of popularity, but at the end of the day he was found not guilty of a doping violation and that needs to be respected.
"There's an athlete on the other side of the fence who has faced a tribunal and has been exonerated of all charges. It will go to appeal, it will be heard by CAS, and we need to hold fire until CAS issues a final judgment in the weeks and months ahead."
While Yang escaped sanction from the FINA anti-doping panel on charges of destroying blood samples, The Daily Telegraph reported earlier this month the 59-page report released in the aftermath of the hearing "raises serious questions about how the hot-headed Olympic champion escaped with nothing more than a warning" and "shows that he only got off on a technicality, which is why the World Anti-Doping Agency has appealed the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport".
Some in the swimming world are angry Yang is being allowed to compete while he waits for his hearing with CAS, insisting he should be stood down until a final verdict is reached.
- with Laine Clark, AAP