Now about a month removed from the 2019 FINA World Championships and the buzz-worthy protests that came with it, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart, known for his work in exposing Lance Armstrong’s doping operation, spoke to Australian reporter Phil Lutton of TheAge.com regarding his take on the Sun Yang situation and how it could have been better handled.
As a quick refresher: Australian swimmer Mack Horton abstained from podium festivities and refused to take photos with Sun Yang when he took second to the Chinese star in the 400 free at Worlds. Sun is currently facing a Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing in September to decide his fate after a vial of his blood was allegedly intentionally smashed in the presence of a drug tester in September 2018. While Horton and Sun have a history that goes back to the Rio Olympics, when Horton called Sun a “drug cheat,” Great Britain’s Duncan Scott (who does not have such a history), followed suit, also refusing to shake hands and take pictures with Sun on the 200 free podium.
“Shame on the system… and we’re part of the system,” Tygart said. “It’s a part that we don’t have control over but it does reflect on all of us trying to fight for clean sport. Shame on us for putting athletes in a position where they had to protest and not join the podium.”
“That’s not their fault… that’s our fault and we should take responsibility for putting them in that position. Good on them for standing up when the system has let them down,” Tygart continued.
He points to a larger issue the athletes may have been protesting: the handling of Sun’s case, in addition to Sun himself. According to CAS, Sun’s hearing could have been moved prior to Worlds, but no involved party (ie. Sun’s camp, WADA, or FINA) requested it.
“Where the World Championships was really unfortunate was the Sun Yang case appeal had not been complete. Everyone would have been totally satisfied if the process had been complete and it wasn’t just a FINA internal panel that made the decision and it had gone to CAS,” Tygart said.
“That’s the part where the frustration comes in and it’s a shame that the system didn’t work better to take the frustration away from all the athletes competing. You can understand why all the athletes would be frustrated having to compete with someone that has a pending case hanging over them.”
Tygart added that “process-wise,” nothing should have prevented the case from being heard more quickly.