MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Questions will be asked if Sun Yang is cleared to compete at the Olympics and performs well in the Tokyo pool, given he is banned from training through official channels in China, Australia swimming chief Kieren Perkins said.
Three-times Olympic gold medallist Sun is seeking to overturn an eight-year doping ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which would allow him to swim at Tokyo.
“What will be fascinating to watch is if he is there and competes well, it will raise some pretty significant questions on China and the way they’ve managed disqualified athletes,” Swimming Australia President Perkins told Australian broadcaster Nine Network.
“The reality is, the rules are very clear that if you are suspended or disqualified through a case like this, you’re not able to train with your squad or interact with your sport through any of its official channels.
“So, if he’s performing well, you’d have to ask where’s he been training, and who’s he been training with, because he shouldn’t have been.”
Perkins, who won back-to-back 1,500m freestyle gold medals at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, questioned whether China would even want to select Sun, despite the 29-year-old’s haul of 11 world titles and six Olympic medals.
“One of the things that’s fascinating about China as a country is they’re not short on talent,” he said.
“He’s a big name, and somebody that’s definitely a talent and well known, but he’s one of a big number.
“So, who are they excluding to support him if he’s able to compete? That’s a big call, because he’s got to be at the end of his career, regardless.”
Sun’s Australian rival Mack Horton has been outspoken about the Chinese swimmer’s doping record and refused to take the podium with him at the 2019 world championships.
Perkins said Sun’s presence at Tokyo could be a “distraction” but Olympic 400m freestyle champion Horton would not be bothered by it.
“He certainly knows how to manage himself and his environment. So I’m not concerned about Mack in that regard,” said Perkins.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)