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Commentary: Shanya Jack drug case exposes blatant double-standard against Sun Yang

(Xinhua)    13:17, July 30, 2019

BEIJING, July 29 -- New allegations that Swimming Australia may have engaged in a cover-up in order to protect its athlete Shanya Jack, reported by news.com.au, have laid bare the double-standards and utter hypocrisy of the treatment afforded to Chinese Olympic champion Sun Yang by both Swimming Australia and some of his fellow athletes.

Jack failed a doping test late that month for a drug called Ligandrol that increases muscle growth, but when she was withdrawn from competition right before things got underway at the Worlds in Gwangju, Swimming Australia cited only "personal reasons" in explaining its move.

Both Swimming Australia and the country's sport minister have defended these actions, but their explanations fail to pass muster, at least for any objective observer. Even former Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority chief executive Richard Ings has taken to social media to point out that Swimming Australia's initial statement "was an untruth."

By lying to the public regarding the Jack case, Swimming Australia has lost every ounce of credibility in its defense of Mack Horton's podium stunt aimed at Sun Yang.

"Athletes in these situations have a right to a process," said Swimming Australia chief Leigh Russell, with the country's Federal Sport Minister Richard Colbeck also echoing these sentiments in calling for due process to be allowed run its course in the Jack case.

Russell and Colbeck could not be more correct in their statements. It is the sole responsibility of international sport governing bodies to adjudicate cases involving potential use of banned substances. So why, when Horton made his attention-grabbing move at the podium with Sun, did Swimming Australia rush to his defense in the name of protecting clean sport? Does Sun Yang not have the same right to due process as Shanya Jack?

Of course, he does. But Swimming Australia is not interested in due process, nor is it interested in protecting clean sport. If it was, the organization would have issued a statement after Horton's move calling on its athletes to respect their fellow competitors and respect due process in all ongoing doping cases. It also would have immediately made Jack's failed test known and promised to do its part to protect clean sport going forward. No such statements were made because this has never been Swimming Australia's intention.

FINA has already issued its ruling on the incident involving Sun's out-of-competition drug test, clearing him of all wrongdoing. WADA has appealed that decision, and is perfectly within its rights to do so. FINA has also ruled that Sun may continue to compete while that appeal is adjudicated by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Due process is running its course, and third parties like Swimming Australia and Sun's fellow competitors should show respect and restraint in the meantime.

Mack Horton's own hypocrisy has also been made plain as this case unfolds. An ABC News Australia reporter on Saturday approached Horton outside the team bus in Gwangju, asking him if the Jack case had made him regret his earlier actions toward Sun. Horton smirked and stood in silence before making his way to the team bus. While he later issued a statement reiterating his commitment to clean sport, he did not address whether or not he regretted his actions toward Sun given the unfolding scandal in his own swimming association.

It is impossible to ignore the fact that the personal animus between Sun and Horton goes back to Rio 2016. Horton's selective outrage at this year's Worlds is a clear indication that he is an opportunist aiming to score personal points against (and generate negative publicity for) a powerful rival. He should stop pretending that protecting clean sport is his intention. Horton is fooling nobody.

If Horton is concerned about Sun Yang's ongoing case and feels that it should preclude him from competition, he is perfectly entitled to his opinion and free to make it known. The mixed zone would have been the appropriate place to do this in interviews and public statements. The competition podium must always be a place where respect, decency, and kindness to one's competitors prevails.

An old saying holds that 'sunlight is the best disinfectant.' Swimming Australia, with the aid of a few Australian government officials and some Australian media outlets, has actually done the public a favor by letting the sunlight in on its real intentions: protecting the image of its own swimmer while sullying that of a decorated Olympian from a competing country. Sun Yang has shown remarkable and commendable professionalism and restraint given the immense and unfair burden that has been placed on his shoulders by some of his fellow athletes.

International sports competitions are meant to be a place where political and cultural differences are set aside as the world's best athletes compete on a level playing field in a spirit of friendliness. Clean competition is a bottom-line requirement for this spirit to prevail, one that must apply equally to all countries and athletes.

The Shanya Jack incident should teach an important lesson to Swimming Australia, to Mack Horton, and to some of the western media outlets that were so quick to pile up on Sun Yang. The expectation of clean sport should never be used as a bludgeon to selectively kneecap one athlete while giving a pass to others. Fairness, objectivity, and respect for due process must always be maintained and applied equally to everyone.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Wen Ying, Bianji)

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