Wildest twist in Sun Yang case yet
An incredible report from Chinese state media says one of the people who visited swimmer Sun Yang last year to collect blood and urine samples was actually a construction worker rather than an anti-doping professional.
The Xinhua News Agency, which is China's official state-run press agency and proclaims itself to be the biggest media organisation in the People's Republic, reported the builder attended Sun's residence in the eastern Zhejiang province of Hangzhou because he was friends with one of the doping control officers (DCO) who was on site.
Sun faced a hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Saturday (AEDT) where he defended himself over a failure to take a doping test in September 2018. During a 10-hour session marred by translation problems, Sun maintained inspectors drawing blood and urine samples failed to have proper identification papers.
A security guard, allegedly under instructions from Sun's mother, smashed a vial of the swimmer's blood to prevent it being taken away and tested.
Sun claimed he was within his rights not to provide any samples because he had doubts over the legitimacy of the testers while the World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA) disputed that suggestion and slammed the Chinese star as "reckless".
Xinhua quoted an unnamed person as saying he was at the scene but was a construction worker, not a doping control assistant (DCA), and was not taken up on his offer to testify.
"I am a builder and I am always busy at work, day and night. No one ever trained me about the doping test, and it is unnecessary for me to undertake such training," the man reportedly told Xinhua.
"I agreed to give my words at a video conference before the public hearing as they requested. I was ready, but no one had ever contacted me about this."
As it is run by the state, Xinhua is known to promote a pro-China agenda.
The anonymous source said the DCO planning to collect samples from Sun - a former school classmate - asked him for help, which is why he was there.
"Before we entered the test room, the DCO asked me to escort Sun into the bathroom. As my understanding, she was asking me to watch Sun Yang urinating. Because both of them were ladies, I agreed," the builder said.
"Sun is a big star in China and it was my first time being near him. I was excited. I took a couple of pictures outside the room with my cellphone. When I tried to take pictures of him again when we were sitting in the room, Sun told me not to do so.
"I knew nothing about the doping test and nothing about my role that night. I just came to help my middle school classmate at her request. I am a builder."
The man claims when he showed Sun his ID, the swimmer told him he was not accredited.
One of Sun's complaints, in addition to concerns about the paperwork provided, is at least one of the testers was taking photos of him.
Amid concerns over witness intimidation, the anti-doping officials who visited Sun's home testified earlier and did not attend Saturday's CAS session in Montreux, Switzerland, Associated Press reported.
"If they had been professional and had shown their identification, we would not be here today," Sun said during the hearing.
"The officials were not even capable of proving their identity. How could I allow them to take my sample?"
The head of Zhejiang province's anti-doping centre Han Zhaoqi, appearing as a witness for Sun, told the court the procedure was illegal.
He said he had twice issued instructions to Sun's doctor, Ba Zhen, not to allow testers to leave with the doping samples because "blood was collected by a person without valid authorisation … so it was illegal".
WADA has asked for a ban of between two and eight years, saying Sun voluntarily refused to submit to give samples.
"That is pretty sensational," Richard Young, the WADA lawyer, said of the hammer-smashing incident. "But he was nailed on a tampering violation before any of that happened."
Sun became a star in China as the country's first man to win an Olympic title in swimming. He won gold medals in the 400m and 1500m freestyle races at the 2012 London Olympics. He added gold in the 200m at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
In Rio, Australian rival Mack Horton called Sun a drug cheat as anger built over a three-month ban for his positive test in 2014 that some considered too lenient. The ban was initially kept secret by Chinese authorities and swimming world governing body FINA, which some accused of appearing to protect one of its biggest names in a key market.
Sun provoked more anger among rivals by winning two world titles in July while the CAS appeal was pending. Medallists from Australia and Britain refused to stand on the podium with him in Gwangju, South Korea.