Breaking Down Sun Yang’s Case, Part 4: What Did the Doping Panel Find?

[Editor’s note: In September of 2018, Olympic champion swimmer and world record holder Sun Yang had a run-in with drug testers that resulted in one of Sun’s bodyguards smashing a vial of his blood that was intended to be used to examine whether or not he was compliant with anti-doping rules. That much is fact. After that, the details get murky. In July, The Guardian leaked the full 59-page FINA Doping Panel report about the incident, to the chagrin of FINA, and this, at a minimum, illuminated the details of the “he said, she said” of that night. The report doesn’t answer all of the questions, but it is the best available information about what happened that night. The thought of poring through 59 pages of a doping panel report is a daunting time commitment, and making sense of it all and tying those dots together can be difficult. The result is that there has been a lot of misinformation about the incident, the panel, and its report circulating on pool decks and on social media. Between now and the November 15th-scheduled appeal hearing about the incident, we’re going to spend some time breaking down the report into more digestible pieces for our readers. This will include pulling in information not in the report where appropriate, examining rules cited, shedding light on who is involved, and helping our readers to better understand the knowns, the unknowns, and the process of this saga.]

The following is the fourth part of a four-part series.

What Did the Doping Panel Find?

The panel did find that Sun was improperly notified — and took a strong stance on the importance of proper notification. “The Doping Panel rejects any argument or claim that the deficiencies in the notification procedure which it has identified are minor, do not impact the integrity of the blood sample that was collected and should not serve to invalidate the entire testing mission,” the report reads. “Notification is the ‘gateway’ into a realm of onerous obligations and responsibilities — all falling on the athletes.”

Essentially, the panel believes that if athletes are being held to strict, often inconvenient standards, so too should the testers. They further clarified that Sun’s camp’s dramatic actions in no way negate the testers’ mistakes. “The fact that the Athlete in this instance did elect to engage in very troubling conduct regarding the collected blood samples does not serve to eliminate the requirements by the IDTM and FINA to comply with the provisions contained in the ISTI [the document that specifies notification procedures].”

But crucially, the panel noted, even if it found the notification process to be satisfactory, there were additional grounds on which to void the mission. The DCA did not show up at the hearing to disprove Sun’s allegations that he had taken photos of him, and the panel found sufficient evidence there were photos taken of Sun. “He [the DCA] was the best person to disprove the serious allegations against him that were raised — but he failed to do so,” the report reads. It continues: “Chaperoning an athlete is a sensitive, personal and serious matter. It is not for ‘fans.’”

Similarly, the Panel also found that the blood collection assistant was not properly certified within the locality, as is necessary by ISTI rules. And as with the DCA, she did not show up to the hearing to disprove that finding. “The only evidence before the Doping Panel was that the BBCA was not properly qualified. There was no evidence to the contrary,” the report reads. “What is certain is that she did not produce unequivocal evidence of her qualifications to draw blood from the Athlete.”

The panel believes that the mission should have been abandoned once these “improper” actions were discovered.

Additionally, the panel maintains that Sun was not clearly told that his failure to comply would definitely result in an official strike against him. “The DCO must tell the athlete, in a language he can understand, the consequences of a possible Failure to Comply. Explaining the risks that certain conduct might lead to a violation is not sufficient. The DCO must go further and clearly articulate that she is treating the Athlete’s conduct as a Failure to Comply that the following consequences will apply,” they said.  Instead, the report reads, Sun’s camp and the DCO just debated about who was “right” in this situation.

“There was no clarifying and crystallizing moment (a metaphorical “bang”) ensuring the Athlete clearly knew, in the face of the identified conduct, that his conduct was being treated by the DCO as a Failure to Comply and that serious consequences could apply,” they said.

In light of the fault wagered against the testers, the report does conclude with a few statements criticizing Sun’s camp’s conduct. “Avoiding an anti-doping violation in this matter should not be equated with with the Doping Panel condoning such a strategy in future situations. While ultimately successful, is was a close-run thing.”

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Cynical Observer
1 year ago

Popcorn time!

1 year ago

So Sun Yang gets off — again.
And we wonder why they even bother to test — if you have an authoritarian government behind you 100%, on the one hand,
and a group of administrative bunglers, on the other – only clean athletes and sport are damaged – sad!

Cynical Observer
Reply to  mike_in_dallas
1 year ago

Did you even read the article? I think that there’s a case to be made for both sides — especially see Nathan Adrian’s comment to the NYT here:

My comment above is referring to those who refuse to acknowledge the other side that they don’t support, especially without even logically going through what the accused’s situation is based on East/West racism and tension. Sun Yang did act like an idiot and in a manner that suggests his guilt, that is true. But to blame this on the ‘authoritarian government’ is rather unreasonable, given the situation that has been established which occured that night.

Reply to  Cynical Observer
1 year ago

I agree, I think the topic of clean sport is such a hot button issue that the factors you mentioned combined with the language barrier, Sun Yang’s abrasive personality, and his history of having been banned once (which in itself was not as cut and dry as people assume) make him the perfect poster boy for people to vent their frustrations on. I’m not surprised that people are judging a situation without bothering to consider the details.

13% Non-Chinese
Reply to  BairnOwl
1 year ago

Just to play the devil’s advocate, I honestly would love to exist in an alternate universe where everything about Sun as it stands was true, but that he was either from a European or Five Eyes country.

It’s a good thought experiment about what would change given the availability of information and the lack of a language barrier, but I think that especially in such a modern society it’s important to see the impact that a localized culture has on the individual, but likewise to not immediately associate an individual with the attributes of his/her/their country.

Corn Pop
Reply to  13% Non-Chinese
1 year ago

I am afraid to inform ppl that The 5 Eyes are no loner in a relationship .. The Donald is the Yoko of the 5 Eyes .

Reply to  13% Non-Chinese
1 year ago

Agree with you, but the history of doping from eastern block countries, China, and Russia are what leads to the presumption of guilt. Similar to Yulia Efimova. She lived, trained, and went to school in the US, but because she is Russian, is seen very cynically by much of the rest of the world. Plus, Sun had a prior incident. The excuse seems sensible, but it results in extra scrutiny. Given the history, I am not sure that the reaction would not be the same. All that said, as with law enforcement, in my mind, a higher level of scrutiny should be placed on the authorities, and the suspect/athlete should be given the benefit of the doubt.

Reply to  Cynical Observer
1 year ago

Dear Cynic,
Not only did I read the article (cf. above) I actually plowed through the 59-page FINA doc. So, palease, don’t patronize me with this kind of rhetorical trashing. Playing the racist card is so lame and unnecessary – almost as ludicrous as the canard about “east-west tension”; the only tension here is that clean athletes, past and present, continue to have NO avenue for compensation and correcting the record, and this goes back all the way to the DDR and swimming in the 60’s and 70’s. Sun Yang is simply the latest version of a very old story.

The perfect high elbow
1 year ago

Well, you read it but clearly didn’t understand anything. The panel has no bias and all the logical connections made by them make sense, as presented above. The case is rather complex, you can make points for both sides, Sun and the testers. Your argument is basically ‘see he is guilty by default because I say so and they let him go’. It is ilogical and there is no evidence in the Fina doc for such ‘clear’ conclusion for you to reach.

Reply to  The perfect high elbow
1 year ago

agree with you elbow, I can’t see any valid points from mike regarding his analyse of why he thinks SUN was guilty and what was the problem of FINAs judgement. You can’t blame people for saying it’s racism…

Vasili Rajevski
1 year ago

Long live mother Russia!💪💪💪

About Torrey Hart

Torrey Hart

Torrey is from Oakland, CA, and majored in media studies and American studies at Claremont McKenna College, where she swam distance freestyle for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps team. Outside of SwimSwam, she has bylines at Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, SB Nation, and The Student Life newspaper.

Read More »