Sack FINA. After the disgrace of the Sun Yang doping case, swimming’s governing body has no authority and no credibility. It’s entire executive should be removed now, if the sport is to regain trust. It cannot move forward with the present hierarchy in charge. It is time to go.
Why now? At the Court of Arbitration for Sport, in a battle between WADA and a repeat-offending drugs cheat, FINA took the side of the cheat. Sun Yang had already been banned for the use of illegal stimulant trimetazidine when he was visited by testers in September 2018.
A row at his home ended with vials of his blood being deliberately smashed — ‘tampered with’ was CAS’s genteel description — by a Chinese team doctor, Ba Zhen, who had previously been suspended twice by WADA. Sun also refused to give a urine sample.
Chinese swimmer Sun Yang has been banned for eight years for breaching anti-doping rules
FINA’s initial punishment was a caution; it was left to WADA to appeal it, with an eight-year ban the result.
FINA could have taken a neutral stance, but instead worked against WADA, first supporting a move to prevent the participation of lead prosecutor Richard Young, then supporting a plea of inadmissibility on a filing technicality.
FINA, and Sun, lost both claims and for now the taint remains. Sun has announced he will be challenging the CAS verdict and no doubt FINA will back that, too. Why are they so soft on him?
Throughout, FINA’s indulgence of Sun has stunk. Alarm bells should have rung in 2014 when he tested positive at China’s national championships. The failure was not made public but dealt with in-house by China’s anti-doping authorities.
Their punishment? A paltry three-month ban and £500 fine, freeing Sun to compete in the Asian Games where he won three gold medals.
Then, six months later, Sun’s positive test was announced. FINA turned a blind eye to both the cheating, the weak punishment and the cover-up that followed.
Sun Yang (R) tells Briton Duncan Scott 'you're the loser, I'm the winner' after their 200m duel
Is it any wonder? ‘China is a very valuable partner for FINA,’ said their president Julio Maglione at the 2017 World Aquatics Gala in Sanya, Hainan Province.
At the 2016 Olympics, Sun described FINA chief executive Cornel Marculescu as ‘a very good friend of the Chinese swim team’. Maglione is 84, Marculescu 78 — they have held their respective positions for a combined 44 years.
And so to last year’s FINA World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, where Sun was allowed to compete despite that unpleasantness with the vials. As protests from athletes grew, FINA at last took action — against those campaigning for clean sport.
Mack Horton, the Australian who led the way by refusing to shake Sun’s hand or join him on the podium having finished second in the 400m freestyle, was said to have behaved in an ‘unacceptable’ manner by FINA.
They rushed through a rule commanding podium appearances and demanding that swimmers ‘strictly avoid any offensive or improper behaviour towards officials, other competitors, team members or spectators during the competition’. They circled their wagons around drugs cheat Sun.
Cate Campbell, a world record holder, Olympic gold medallist and team-mate of Horton, said tough questions needed to be asked of FINA’s executives. She’s right. ‘What are you still doing here?’ That would be the first one. And: ‘Why don’t you f*** off?’ That would be the second. And, yes, crude. But so is smashing tainted blood vials with a hammer. It’s a bit late to aim for a battle of wits on the moral high ground. We just need them gone.
Mack Horton (L) refused to stand on the podium with Sun at the 2019 World Championships
So how do we achieve that? And this is the difficult part, because it involves the IOC and that noted lickspittle of Russian drug cheats, president Thomas Bach.
If the IOC said swimming was out of the next Olympics unless the regime at the top of FINA changed, Maglione and Marculescu would have to stand down for the good of their sport.
If Bach announced FINA could not be trusted to deliver clean competition with that pair at the helm, it would be over.
The move from clean athletes and clean countries to preserve swimming’s Olympic status would be so strong, FINA’s executive would have no option but to resign.
That was the IOC’s threat to weightlifting in 2000: go clean or go home. For a while it worked, but the sport is under scrutiny again, threatened with expulsion in 2024 unless improvements are made. It does have impact.
The IOC have the capability to be an enormously powerful force for clean sport, if they are prepared to take that responsibility. And this is the place to start.
FINA is not fit for purpose. Sun’s legacy is that his spilled blood should at last wash swimming clean.Eat your words, Joe
Real Madrid beat Barcelona to go top of La Liga. It wasn’t a classic Clasico, but Joe Hart among others might now note that Manchester City’s 2-1 win at the Bernabeu isn’t looking like such a missed opportunity.Why cycling world has gone up a gear
Stephen Park, the performance director of British Cycling, has warned that Great Britain could return from this summer’s Olympics with its lowest medal haul since 2004.
‘We should temper our expectations,’ said Park, after Elinor Barker was Britain’s sole gold medallist at the Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin. ‘The days of any nation winning 10-plus medals have probably gone. That is a result of worldwide competition increasing and the difference in terms of equipment and technology decreasing.’
In other words: they’ve rumbled us. Britain’s sudden eminence at cycling was not just about a handful of brilliant individuals coming together. It was a well-honed medal-winning strategy born of the realisation that cycling provided big opportunities and small fields.
Great Britain's Laura Kenny is helped off the track after crashing in Berlin last week
Not a lot of countries were good at it, but there were a great many medals available. And it was a technological sport, so responded to money. Invest significantly in cycling and, with the right athletes, you could reap rewards.
Now the rest of the world knows. They see how ruthlessly Team GB targets its low-hanging fruit, which is why it will spend big on modern pentathlon and skeleton but ignore basketball and