Mack Horton answers awkward question
AUSTRALIAN swimming champion Mack Horton has delivered an explosive claim that swimming is rife with drug cheats after breaking his silence on his podium protest against Sun Yang.
The 23-year-old Aussie spoke to Channel 7's Sunday Night about his protest and the subsequent positive drug test of fellow Australian Dolphins team member Shayna Jack.
Long a campaigner against drugs in sport, Horton was asked how dirty the sport is and it was then he dropped his bombshell allegation.
"We don't know how many athletes, how many swimmers aren't clean. I don't think there's any point in speculating but yeah, a lot," he said.
Despite the claims, Horton was quick to hit back at claims of hypocrisy against both himself and Swimming Australia after Jack's positive test.
Those claims come on the back of Horton refusing to take the podium with Yang after the 400m freestyle final.
Sun finished with the gold medal, 0.73 seconds ahead of Horton in silver but after refusing to stand on the podium with the Chinese star, Horton sparked a wider debate around drugs in sport.
Horton hit back at claims of hypocrisy aimed at the Aussies after Jack's positive test to the banned substance Ligandrol exploded.
"We are not hypocrites. We are enforcing what we are standing for and I think Australia is definitely standing for clean sport," he told Melissa Doyle.
"No one was really sure what to think or feel, I think, at the time and, you know, we still had another finals session ahead of us, we still had another day of competition.
"I think the difference being as soon as she returns a positive sample, she's returned to Australia, she's not competing at a World Championships and that gives me faith in the Australian system and that Australians demand clean sport. We won't let our own athletes get away with it and because we won't let our own athletes get away with it, we can question and demand more from the rest of the world."
Horton has long had a feud with Sun in the pool but when asked what he thought of the Chinese star he declined to comment.
Sun had previously been handed a three-month ban in 2014 for using trimetazidine, reportedly for a heart condition.
It led to a fiery 2016 Olympics battle between himself and Horton. Sun splashed water in the face of Horton in the training pool before the Aussie hit back saying he "splashed me to say hello, and I didn't respond because I don't have time for drug cheats".
Horton won the gold in Rio ahead of Sun but the Chinese star hit back in Gwangju at the World Championships to claim the world title.
That win came as Sun faces a CAS hearing over claims he smashed vials of his blood with a hammer last year.
According to reports, Sun was visited by three doping controllers in September last year - but only one was properly accredited.
Horton admitted he was planning the stand but said he was not sure he would go through with it.
"A couple of days in the lead up, I was not so happy with how things were going and I thought regardless of the place I would do this," Horton admitted.
"And I told Gabriele Detti who was actually third, 'I'm thinking of doing this. What do you think?' and he said, 'No, no, I don't want to do that' which is fair enough.
"I respect that and then I wasn't sure if I was going to do it but I did it at the last minute because I didn't want to live, you know, with regret, thinking back, maybe I should've done that at that moment.
"Standing there, it was tense. It was awkward, no one really knew what to do and then all of a sudden the crowd realised what was going on and started applauding and it filled me with emotion and I was like, 'OK, this was the right thing to do'."
Horton and his family copped death threats from furious Chinese fans after his podium protest.
But he had support with British swimmer Duncan Scott also refusing to stand on the podium after he finished with bronze in the 200m event behind Sun, who won gold.
And the American swimmers applauded Horton when he returned to the athletes' village, which he said was "more powerful that actually doing the act".
But when the Jack tests became public, the Horton protest began to be seen in a different light and although he admitted it was "disappointing", he would have done it anyway.
He said the Sun attack wasn't personal but more broadly a protest against swimmers who take banned substances.
"This isn't a China-Australia thing, this isn't a China vs the world thing, this is a principle and the way the sport is governed and controlled," Horton said.
Horton was careful with his words but had a pointed message for world swimming's governing body.
"You know, since being back, I've had people pull out of negotiations and that sort of thing," Horton said of how the Jack bombshell has affected his sponsorship prospects.
"I'd rather just get in the pool to worry about all this stuff. But when nobody's doing anything, the athletes have to take over."
It comes after Jack met with anti-doping chiefs on Friday and defiantly vowed: "I won't stop until I clear my name."
The 20-year-old, part of Australia's 4x100m freestyle team that set a world record last year, is facing a lengthy ban after Ligandrol, which helps build muscle mass, was detected in an out of competition test in late June.
It proved hugely embarrassing for Australian swimming, with the result emerging just days after Horton's high-profile protest.
Jack has denied knowingly taking the drug and met with officials from the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) in Brisbane for a briefing on the test results.
"I am not going to stop until I prove my innocence, and I am going to fight to get myself back in the pool because that's my dream and I'm never going to let that go," she told reporters afterwards.
After Horton refused to share a podium with Sun at the world championships, Jack's positive test saw Australian swimming accused by Chinese state media of being hypocritical in its crusade against doping.
Jack's lawyer Paul Horvath said in a statement Friday the next step in the process was "correspondence from ASADA in about four to six weeks".
- with AAP