A Swiss court has overturned an eight-year doping ban against Chinese swimmer Sun Yang and ordered the case back to the Court of Arbitration for Sport for a second time but with a different chairman of the judges.
In February, CAS found the three-time Olympic champion guilty of refusing to co-operate with sample collectors during a visit to his home in September 2018 that turned confrontational.
WADA brought the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport after world swimming governing body FINA had issued the now 29-year-old Sun with only a warning.
At stake in a second CAS hearing would be Sun’s chance to compete at the pandemic-delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics now set for July 2021.
WADA statement following Swiss Federal Tribunal decision to uphold Sun Yang’s application for revision of CAS award: https://t.co/Ufl0mfEYtj
— WADA (@wada_ama) December 23, 2020
The Swiss court ruling appears to have swung on an objection by Sun’s lawyers to the chairman of the three-judge panel, former Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini.
On Wednesday, WADA said it had been informed of a decision by the Swiss Federal Tribunal to uphold an application by Sun and set aside the original February ruling.
“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,” WADA said in the 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 (chairman).”
A clash between Frattini and Sun was one of the most dramatic moments in a 10-hour CAS hearing in Montreux, Switzerland in November 2019 that was a rare instance of a CAS process held in open court and live-streamed online.
The hearing ended with Sun surprising his own legal team by waving his arms and calling another translator from the public seats to better articulate his closing statement.
“Who is this guy?” asked an incredulous Frattini. “It is not up to you to appear before the court. There are some rules.”
Frattini has upset Sun and his legal team for a series of past tweets, including one from April 23, 2019 that read: “Those horrible sadic chinese are the shame of mankind !! For how they torture animals they deserve the evil every day! And the chinese authorities tolerate and encourage.”
The most vivid detail of the evidence submitted at Sun’s November 2019 CAS hearing was a blood sample rendered useless for testing by a hammer blow.
The hearing was reminded of how a security guard instructed by Sun’s mother broke the casing around the vial to ensure the blood could not be used for anti-doping tests.
The 29-year-old, who won two gold medals at the 2012 London Games and another at Rio de Janeiro in 2016, is a controversial figure in the sport.
He served a three-month doping suspension in 2014 for taking the stimulant trimetazidine, which he said he took to treat a heart condition, while Australian swimmer Mack Horton openly called him a drug cheat at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Horton refused to share the podium with Sun at the 2019 world championships in South Korea, a move that was applauded by other swimmers but condemned by FINA.
Swimming Australia said it and Horton had no comment on the latest decision.
Sun’s successful challenge sets the scene for another CAS hearing ahead of the Tokyo Olympics and ensures the case involving a controversial 2018 doping test continues into at least 2021.