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Mack Horton has been vindicated in the Sun Yang scandal. But the trolls are coming for him.

On Friday night, China’s top swimmer Sun Yang was handed an eight-year ban for a dope test violation.

The decision essentially vindicates Australian rival, Mack Horton, who after winning silver at the Rio Games, famously refused to share a podium with gold-medalist Yang and labelled him a “drug cheat”.

“The CAS [Court of Arbitration for Sport] Panel unanimously determined, to its comfortable satisfaction, that the athlete violated Article 2.5 FINA DC (Tampering with any part of Doping Control),” the CAS statement said announcing their decision.

The CAS found the reigning world and Olympic 200m freestyle champion guilty of refusing to cooperate with official sample collectors during an out-of-competition doping test in September 2018. It was alleged Sun’s bodyguard used a hammer to smash vials containing blood samples.

The ban almost certainly will spell the end of Sun’s professional swimming career.

sun yang banned
Silver medalist Mack Horton of Australia with gold medalist Sun Yang of China and bronze medalist Gabriele Detti of Italy during the medal ceremony for Men's 400m Freestyle Final at the Gwangju 2019 FINA World Championships. Image: Getty.

Sun Yang vowed to appeal the ban from the CAS, saying "this is unfair".

"I firmly believe in my innocence. I will definitely appeal to let more people know the truth."

In light of the eight-year ban, Mack Horton has said his focus has always been about "clean sport". The Aussie swimmer spoke to Network Seven after learning of this latest sanction against his rival.

"I think regardless of the outcome it was always going to be a statement to the world and my stance has always been about clean sport never about nations or individuals," Horton said.

The case has attracted huge interest in China, where Sun is currently training at the Zhejiang College of Sports in Hangzhou, and in the swimming world.

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However, despite the finding that Sun is guilty of tampering with a doping sample, Horton has been the target for online trolls.

Tens of thousands of Chinese have flooded social media in support of the swimmer following the verdict, stating it was "cruel" and "unjust".

"Foreigners are jealous. It is really unfair to treat Sun Yang in this way. Since when did competitive sports become villain sports," said one user called 'Lingering memories' on microblogging website Weibo Corp.

Mack Horton's most recent Instagram post has seen an onslaught of over 2000 comments, with many people condemning the Aussie for his outspoken ways.

He has, however, also received support from a number of high-profile Australians.

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The CAS decision comes after an incident in May 2014, where Sun tested positive to the drug trimetazidine, then considered a stimulant.

It had been prohibited by the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) four months earlier. He was banned from competing for three months and stripped of his win at the Chinese nationals.


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