Chinese swimmer Sun Yang, who publicly clashed with Australia’s Mack Horton at the 2016 Rio Olympics, has copped an eight-year ban for breaking anti-doping rules.

The Court of Arbitration for Sports handed the ban down this week, finding that the three-time Olympic champ refused to co-operate with sample collectors during a visit in 2018.

In September of that year, testing officers arrived at his home for an out-of-competition blood and urine test, but he refused to cooperate, in an interaction that was described as “confrontational.”

During the visit, a security guard used a hammer to smash a container holding blood vials; the swimmer later claimed that he did not think the testing agents were properly accredited to take samples.

Sun Yang was initially cleared of wrongdoing by a FINA panel, but the World Anti Doping Authority appealed this decision, leading to today’s ruling.

The CAS ban forbids Yang from competing until 2028, a move that will effectively end his career in the pool. The 28-year-old maintains his innocence, telling Chinese media:

“This is unfair. I firmly believe in my innocence. I will definitely appeal to let more people know the truth.”

In 2016, Australian swimmer Mack Horton caused a stir when he refused to stand on the podium with Sun Yang during an Olympic medal ceremony.

Horton, who won gold in the men’s 400m freestyle event, called runner-up Yang a “drug cheat”. The Chinese swimming team responded by calling this a “malicious personal attack.”

In 2014, Chinese authorities hit Sun with a three-month ban after he tested positive for a banned stimulant, but this ban was not publicly announced until after it had been served.

There have been calls for Sun’s medals to be reissued, and questions raised as to whether FINA is fit to act as the governing body for international swimming.

Image: Getty Images / Clive Rose