FINA Sends ‘Warning Letter’ to Mack Horton Over Podium Protest


Following his podium protest of Sun Yang on the first night of the 2019 FINA World Championships, FINA has sent a ‘warning letter’ to Mack Horton and Swimming Australia.

The FINA Executive met Monday to ‘analyse’ the situation, according to a statement released today. Full statement:

The FINA Executive met today in Gwangju (KOR) to analyse the situation related with the men’s 400m free victory ceremony and has decided to send a warning letter to Swimming Australia Ltd and to athlete Mack Horton (AUS).

While FINA respects the principle of freedom of speech, it has to be conducted in the right context.

As in all major sports organisations, our athletes and their entourages are aware of their responsibilities to respect FINA regulations and not use FINA events to make personal statements or gestures.

The matter over which Mack Horton was allegedly protesting is currently under review by CAS and therefore it is not appropriate for FINA to prejudice this hearing by commenting further.

After his silver medal performance in the 400 free, Horton refused to take the podium with gold medalist Sun Yang, of China. He also kept an intentional distance between himself, Sun, and bronze medalist Gabriele Detti during post-podium photo ops in addition to his demonstration during the medal ceremony.

Horton and Sun have long had somewhat of a rivalry, and the Olympic champion Sun is currently embroiled in a doping investigation.

Their back-and-forth goes back to the Rio Olympic Games in 2016. While competing there, Sun had splashed Horton while in the warm-up pool, with Horton telling the media, “He splashed me to say hi and I ignored him because I don’t have time for drug cheats.”

At the time, Sun responded by accusing Horton of playing mind games to destabilize him. “I don’t think I need to explain myself any further. I have done what it takes to prove I’m clean … all athletes should be shown respect. On the competition stage, every athlete deserves to be respected and there’s no need to use these sorts of cheap tricks to affect each other.

Now, Sun is facing a CAS hearing in September regarding the World Anti-Doping Agency’s appeal case against the FINA anti-doping decision not to sanction the world record holder over his blood vial-smashing incident in September.

It’s unclear if FINA threatened Horton with suspension, but if so, it would not be without precedent. In 2008, LEN suspended Serbian Milorad Cavic for wearing a “Kosovo is Serbia” shirt on the podium at the European Championships.

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Oh shut up FINA


Horton was happy to share the podium when he won gold in Rio, but now he’s nothing other than a sore loser.. Why are so many outsiders here confident that they know the truth better than FINA? Because of the biased media coverage? What a shame!


Totally agree. Self appointed hero of justice. Want to fight doping? So leave swimming and join an organization whose role is to take care of that – WADA, etc.


FINA wanted to suspend Sun too, but was (temporarily, at least) overruled. This is such an idiotic comment, as if people can’t for shouldn’t form their own opinions from the widely available facts. Some people are just born zombies..


I think you got your facts wrong, Caleb. FINA decided NOT to sanction Sun and WADA is appealing that sanction. That has been widely reported, including the second to last paragraph of the article above.

FINA did not decide to not sanction Sun. An anti-doping panel declined FINA’s request to sanction Sun. The anti-doping panel is referred to as a FINA anti-doping panel, because FINA called the panel, but the arbitrators are not an actual part of the FINA operation. David Lech, who was on the 3-member panel, for example, is the General Council for the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport. The CCCES does some sample-collection services, but does not list FINA among their clients:

FINA requested that the panel punish Sun.


In Rio Horton shared a stand with someone who was found guilty of cheating, served his suspension, but had met all other requirements of the drug testing program post violation.

In Gwangju Horton was upstaged by a someone FINA said should be banned for life because he did not follow the requirements of the drug testing program (and his first violation probably weighed in too). But there he was swimming, winning.

If you don’t see the difference on your own, nothing I say on the internets is going to change your view point.


FINA didn’t find him guilty. That’s why he can still participate in this competition after months of that test. It is WADA that was overruled by FINA. Would suggest getting basics right before you come up with long explanation on Horton’s behalf

Peter – the irony here is that you have the basics completely wrong. FINA presented a case for a ban. An independent doping panel (not WADA, a group of 3 independent arbitrators), opted not to, “overruled FINA” in your parlance. Now WADA is appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport – where it will be heard before another group of arbitrators.

Peter’s original comment below:

FINA didn’t find him guilty. That’s why he can still participate in this competition after months of that test. It is WADA that was overruled by FINA. Would suggest getting basics right before you come up with long explanation on Horton’s behalf


Henry, I am 100% agree with you. Sun Yang is the man!. Horton is a sore loser!

McGill Rocks

I agree with Fina on this one. Looking at the support of the lady’s 100m fly, that is the only type of message that should be sent at a major championship meet. Young swimmers everywhere look up to Horton, and seeing that might make them think that it is okay for them to abstain from the podium as well if they don’t win. I am not defending Sun in any way- obviously there is a lack of ethical conduct on his part, but I think this shows a lack of class and almost pettiness from Horton as well.

He could easily have saved his message for an interview, instead he tarnished what should be an honorable medal ceremony.


he didn’t tarnish anything? everyone acts like he spit on him. he simply stood behind the other two. The fact that you are getting worked up about such a small thing is real unreal. It was respectful and I would have done the same. Unless you can come up with a reason to take a hammer and smash a vile of blood…but justice will prevail how it will and innocent until proven guilty….but I doubt he is


This is pathetic


Sarah shows the way for any swimmer who is either beaten or unhappy for the result they got . Period . A Class act


Seriously? All these comments suggesting that Horton is just pouting and isn’t actually protesting Sun’s behavior? Do you think John Carlos wasn’t actually protesting racism, just trying to come up with an excuse for why he “only” won the bronze medal?

Steve Nolan

I was absolutely coming in here to mention John Carlos and Tommie Smith as a comparison. (And to a lesser extent, Peter Norman. Detti really didn’t feel like playing the Norman role here, lol.)

Horton just saying something after the ceremony wouldn’t have brought nearly as much attention to this issue, much like Carlos and Smith. His protest was good and smart.

Woke Stasi

Yes, I’m old enough to remember 1968. An unhappy USOC summarily sent Carlos and Smith home early right after their podium demonstration (they had no more events). The ‘68 Mexico City Olys were a tense affair; the Mexican army killed hundreds of student demonstrators in the weeks prior to opening ceremonies in an effort “to clean up and put a pretty face” on the neighborhoods near the Olympic village and venues.


For the record, I don’t think Horton’s protest is as serious as Carlos & Smith, and certainly wasn’t as carefully planned. I’m just stunned by all the non sequitur comments, along the lines of, “he’s just mad he lost; he should swim faster and not worry about this.”

Steve Nolan

lol ya, wasn’t yelling at you, Caleb.

But in terms of getting publicity, this protest was 100% the way to go. Just saw it on Deadspin!


Based on what do you think it is “obvious ” that sun yang is lack of ethics? Maybe it’s because he’s not white and you just can’t stand the fact that Asian can be as good in any aspect or even better.


He could be an alligator for all we care.


It’s not about him being Asian. It’s about the fact that 2 vials of blood were smashed. This behavior should not be rewarded by allowing him to swim. He should have been immediately suspended.

Only 1 vial of blood was smashed. The other vial is allegedly still in the possession of his doctor.


Did he himself smash the bottles? Why did he do that? Please clarify.


Agreed, he instead showed what a loser actually looks like.


If you don’t like Yang beat him that’s all there is to it I think standing off podium is poor show.


Its a good thing FINA has a President from Uruguay, otherwise this would be a mess.


Money talks. Boycott the companies that sponsor Horton.


he wouldn’t have to make a statement if FINA weren’t a corrupt mess …


thats true as well …….great point


Why is nobody talking about the ‘coincidence’ of FINA announcing a major Chinese sponsor weeks after Sun was let off…? Can’t tell me this deal wasn’t in the works at the time of the hearing.


It was a Chinese sponsor of a meet hosted in China….you think that FINA wasn’t going to have any Chinese sponsors of meets hosted in China?

Lot of y’all trying real hard to connect the dots, but it just isn’t there.


The deal is sponsorship of every major FINA competition for the next 4 years, not sure what you are referring to.


Too bad for poor MH, he shall be a WADA inspector instead of a swimmer…

working swim mom

THIS is what FINA chooses to focus on???? I think that says a lot…

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.

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