Olympic freestyle gold medalist Sun Yang‘s eight-year-long doping ban has been overturned, meaning he’s free to compete again for the time being.
Sun’s lawyers brought the case back to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland after he was banned from competing in February.
The ruling was overturned not because it necessarily lacked merit, but rather because one of the judges was perceived as being unprofessional and displaying racist, anti-Chinese sentiments.
During the initial hearing at the beginning of the year, the chair of the three-member panel that delivered the ruling, former Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini, allegedly said “a very strong witness, haha” when Sun’s mum was called to give evidence.
He also posted a bunch of racist and anti-Chinese comments on social media which Sun’s lawyers said made him unfit to deliver a fair ruling.
In 2019, ahead of the Yulin Lychee and Dog Meat Festival, Frattini wrote: “Old yellow-face sadic [sic] trying to kill and torture a small dog:this is China’s picture!!!Westerners doing rich business with China bear in mind these atrocities.”
Old yellow-face sadic trying to kill and torture a small dog:this is China’s picture!!!Westerners doing rich business with China bear in mind these atrocities
— Franco Frattini (@FrancoFrattini) June 2, 2019
Hell forever for those bastard sadic chinese who brutally killed dogs and cats in Yulin,with the complicity of the chinese authorities !!!
— Franco Frattini (@FrancoFrattini) July 3, 2018
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will now have to start all over again if it wants to ban Sun from the sport.
“The Swiss Federal Tribunal’s decision upholds a challenge against the Chair of the CAS Panel and makes no comment on the substance of this case,” the agency said in a statement.
“WADA will take steps to present its case robustly again when the matter returns to the CAS panel, which will be chaired by a different president.”
Sun is one of China’s greatest sporting heroes, and his ban from competing stunned the nation and the world as it would’ve ruled him out from competing in the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
But he also has a long history of doping scandals, including a three-month suspension by Chinese authorities back in 2014.
Aussie swimming champ Mack Horton called Sun out over doping allegations at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Last year, at the World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, Horton and others even refused to share a podium with Sun, which escalated the feud between the two swimmers.
It’s unclear when the next hearing for the case will be, but just keep in mind that the Tokyo Olympics is scheduled to open in July 2021.