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Chinese swimmer Sun, facing lengthy ban, rejects dope test charge

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Montreux (Switzerland) (AFP)

Chinese swimming star Sun Yang, facing a ban of up to eight years for missing an out-of-competition test, told an appeal court on Friday that dope testers were at fault for failing to identify themselves correctly.

Attending a one-day public hearing of the Court for Arbitration of Sport (CAS), Sun, accused of using a hammer to smash a vial containing his own blood sample, blamed testers for being unprofessional and ignoring protocol.

"If they had been professional and had shown their identification, we would not be here today," Sun said in Chinese, translated by court interpreters.

"The officials were not even capable of proving their identity. How could I allow them to take my sample," said the triple Olympic champion who is a national hero in China.

Sun, winner of 11 world titles, was cleared of missing the unannounced test by FINA, the international swimming federation, in January.

FINA confirmed that he had used a hammer to smash a vial containing his own blood sample during the testing session in September last year but agreed that testers had failed to produce adequate identification.

As a result Sun went on to compete in the World Championship in South Korea in July, winning two titles.

- 'Out of control' -

However the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) appealed the FINA ruling to CAS and is seeking a ban of between two and eight years for Sun, who served a three-month doping suspension in 2014 for testing positive for the stimulant trimetazidine.

Sun's lawyer Ian Meakin said the doping control team which visited the swimmer in the Chinese city of Hangzhou in eastern Zhejiang province on September 4 last year did not provide the required letter of authorisation including identities of the doping officials involved.

But representatives of the Swedish firm IDTM that has carried out the doping tests on behalf of FINA since the 1990s, testified that the documentation supplied to Sun was standard and had been approved by swimming's world governing body.

In 2018 alone, the letter of authority had been used to collect 3,200 test samples without complaint.

In this case, however the head of China's Zhejiang province anti-doping centre Han Zhaoqi, appearing as a witness for Sun, told the court the procedure was illegal.

He said he had twice issued instructions to Sun's doctor, Ba Zhen, not to allow testers to leave with the doping samples.

He said he had been contacted at his home by telephone by Ba on the night of the test and told him the "blood was collected by a person without valid authorisation... so it was illegal".

Ba, who was present at the testing, has been Sun's doctor since 2007 and was banned for a year for supplying him with trimetazidine in 2014.

One WADA official described "out of control" scenes that followed the testing procedure as Sun's entourage blocked doping control officers from leaving with the doping sample, resulting in charges that Sun took a hammer and destroyed the blood vial.

Friday's court proceedings have been moved from the CAS headquarters in Lausanne to Montreux to cope with high media interest and will for only the second time in the tribunal's history be conducted in public.

However, the hearing was beset by technical difficulties and interpreting errors between Chinese and English which frustrated lawyers and delayed proceedings early on.

CAS said that a ruling on Sun's case would not be issued on Friday following the one-day hearing but at a later date following court deliberations.

Sun's acquittal by FINA in January, and his subsequent appearance at the World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, in July, proved controversial and triggered protests.

Australian Mack Horton refused to share the podium with Sun after coming second to him in the 400m freestyle. Horton received an ovation from fellow swimmers at the athletes' dining hall for his protest.

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