Mack Horton has again felt the wrath of Sun Yang’s furious fans on social media, receiving a flood of threats and foul abuse following the Chinese swimmer’s eight-year ban for a doping test violation.
Horton is a long-time rival of Sun’s and hit the headlines at the 2016 Rio Olympics when he said, talking about the 28-year-old: “I don’t have time or respect for drug cheats.”
The comment referred to a previous ban Sun received in 2014 for testing positive to a banned substance and Horton was viciously trolled online.
And even though Horton’s reaction to Sun’s latest ban was extremely measured, it did not stop the vile comments.
Death threats to Horton and his family were posted online, while commenters also referred to the horrific bushfires that ravaged through Australia this summer.
The New Daily has chosen not to re-publish these comments.
Horton refused to share the podium with Sun at last year’s FINA World Swimming Championships in Gwangju, South Korea.
That was after Sun won a men’s 400m freestyle final, with Horton, who finished second, standing to the side and refusing to pose for photos with his rival.
Horton’s reaction to Sun’s eight-year ban was a calm one.
“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 told 7 News before a training session on Saturday.
Asked if he was relieved, Horton added: “It goes on … I’m just a guy still chasing the dream … we’ve got a job to do this morning and we’ll just keep going.”
Many other swimmers were far more forthright, South African butterfly swimmer Chad Le Clos, who finished second to Sun in the men’s 200m freestyle final at the Rio Olympics, pulled no punches on Twitter.
England swimming star Adam Peaty added that the decision was “very good”.
‘A really big issue’
Horton beat Sun to gold in the men’s 400m freestyle at the Rio Games, but the latter turned the tables at the FINA World Swimming Championships.
Raelene Boyle won silver medals in the women’s 100m and 200m sprints at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, beaten by East Germany’s Renate Stecher.
It was later revealed that Stecher was taking anabolic steroids as part of a state-sponsored doping regime, but Boyle was never given the gold medals.
Despite Sun’s eight-year ban, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled they would not change past results, meaning Horton will not be declared winner of last year’s event in South Korea.
Boyle is adamant that decision is wrong – and that Horton should be declared world champion.
“The medals should definitely not be in his [Sun’s] hands,” Boyle told The Sunday Telegraph.
“I know Mack would rather come second and not cheat than cheat to win the gold, but sporting organisations down the track have to address what happens with medals because Mack should have that goal medal … this is a really big issue.”
Boyle also hailed Horton’s decision not to stand on the podium with Sun at the world championships.
“I actually think Mack’s taken a huge leap for all athletes by not getting on the dais with someone that cheated because the powers that be, through their decision, have acknowledged that what he did was right.”
Sun has already confirmed his desire to appeal the ban.
“This is unfair. I firmly believe in my innocence,” he told Xinhua.
“I will definitely appeal to let more people know the truth.”
Any appeal would be likely heard in the Swiss Federal Tribunal.