In a parting shot at his critics, controversial Chinese star Sun Yang has dismissed rivals Mack Horton and Duncan Scott as “haters” and described himself as a champion of athletes’ rights.
Sun finally drew the curtain on an incident-packed world swimming titles campaign in South Korea marred by podium protests from Australia’s Horton and Briton Scott when he contested the 4x200m freestyle relay on Friday night.
And the triple Olympic champion couldn’t resist a final dig before leaving Gwangju, dismissing his rivals’ stance and crediting his “strong mental approach” for his two gold-medal haul.
“There are millions of swimmers in the world. A couple of guys won’t influence me,” the 200m and 400m gold medallist told reporters.
I don’t want to get into a fight with those haters. Mack will then just answer back and the whole thing escalates and turns into a tit-for-tat.”
Swimmers were angry that Sun had been allowed to contest the titles ahead of a Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing in September that may end the 11-time world champion’s career.
He faces a lifetime ban if found guilty of charges that he smashed vials of his blood with a hammer in a clash with testers last year.
Australia’s Olympic champion Horton sparked an international furore when he opted not to join Sun on the podium after the Chinese star relegated him to 400m freestyle silver.
And the controversy exploded when Scott also did not acknowledge the Chinese champion after the 200m freestyle final, prompting an angry Sun to call the Briton a “loser” in front of TV cameras.
However, Sun claimed he was standing up for other athletes during the now infamous clash with testers last September.
Sun – who served a doping ban in 2014 – objected to the out-of-competition test at his Zhejiang home because he questioned the officials’ credentials.
FINA opted not to punish Sun amid claims the testers had not shown adequate identification, but the World Anti-Doping Agency lodged an appeal to CAS.
But Sun claimed the incident indicated he was on the athletes’ side.
“I think FINA has already made a statement to say that I didn’t break any rules and I obeyed all the rules and what I did is to defend the rights of all athletes because if someone is not qualified to take blood, who knows what can happen,” he said.
“So what I did was to defend the rights of every athlete.
“What I say happened is proven and nothing I’ve said is fake. I have defended myself and I won’t tolerate any disrespect from other athletes.”