Sun Yang's 8-year ban overturned after lawyers point to judge's anti-Chinese tweets

Jack Baer
·3-min read
FILE - In this file photo dated Monday, Aug. 8, 2016, China's gold medal winner Sun Yang waves during the medal ceremony for the men's 200-meter freestyle final during the swimming competitions at the 2016 Summer Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  China’s star swimmer Sun Yang risks being banned from the Tokyo Olympics for the alleged destruction of a doping control sample, according to information made available Wednesday March 13, 2019, from the Court of Arbitration for Sport.(AP Photo/Martin Meissner, FILE)
China's most decorated swimmer is free to swim again, for now. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, FILE)

A collection of vehemently anti-Chinese tweets has caused one of the most drawn-out sagas in swimming to become even longer.

Sun Yang, the most decorated swimmer in Chinese history, had his eight-year ban from the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned by a Swiss federal court on Wednesday, according to The New York Times’ Tariq Panja. The ban had originally been issued after the World Anti-Doping Agency brought a complaint against Sun for refusing to cooperate with three anti-doping officials attempting to collect blood and urine samples at his home in China.

The reason behind the reversal was a successful challenge by Sun’s lawyers that questioned the neutrality of Franco Frattini, the chairman of the three-person CAS panel that issued the swimmer’s ban.

Specifically, Sun’s lawyers pointed to past tweets from Frattini that carried a strong anti-Chinese sentiment.

CAS chairman had dozens of anti-Chinese tweets

It’s unclear which tweets from Frattini, who has previously served as Italy’s minister of foreign affairs, were ruled by the Swiss court to show an anti-Chinese bias, but options are not lacking.

Frattini has frequently posted angry tweets directed at China in the past, primarily reacting to animal cruelty in the region.

Some examples:

Hell forever for those bastard sadic chinese who brutally killed dogs and cats in Yulin,with the complicity of the chinese authorities !!!

Old yellow-face sadic trying to kill and torture a small dog:this is China’s picture!!!Westerners doing rich business with China bear in mind these atrocities

Barbarians!! Torturing and killing and eating dogs is not history,it is sadism from horrible chinese people deserving the worst of evil.The majority of chinese people don’t like this horror,but they have to intervene and ban Yulin tortures

You can check out the larger collection of Frattini’s tweets against China here, but be warned that nearly every tweet is in reply to graphic images of animal cruelty, including dogs and cats.

Where do Sun Yang and the CAS go from here?

While Sun’s ban has been overturned, that doesn’t mean he’s out of the woods.

Per the Times, Sun is now free to resume swimming, but only until his case is heard by a different CAS panel. WADA has reportedly said it will retry the case, and that the ban wasn’t overturned because of lack of merit with its case.

It’s unclear if Sun’s next trial will again be public — his first trial was the first in years to be held in public and was marred by translation issues. It’s also unclear when the re-trial will be held, which is not insignificant considering the Summer Olympics are scheduled to be held in seven months.

Whenever and however the trial is held, what remains sure is that the whole matter will remain contentious. What began with one of Sun’s security guards smashing his blood sample with a hammer has become a muddled mess for WADA, which only filed its complaint after FINA gave Sun a mere warning for refusing to cooperate with testers despite testing positive for a banned substance in the past.

Sun and his supporters have remained adamant in their belief that the swimmer is merely the victim of anti-Chinese bias and attempts to hurt the country, while many of Sun’s peers clearly see him as a doper.

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