USADA’s Tygart on Worlds Podium Protests: ‘Shame on the System… Shame on Us’

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 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.

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2 years ago

Hope there is a live stream for the hearing

Reply to  Ragnar
2 years ago

This is not a problem with the system.Now the system let Sun swim.
If Horton refused to go on the podium he should be
Banned from competing 2years.
Shaking hands is individual preference!
What Horton did destroys the trust in the system!!!

2 years ago

Or…. shame on Sun Yang

2 years ago

I reviewed the doping statistics on the FINA website for 2018 and I was surprised to see there was a six month gap in testing Sun Yang. He was tested in May and not again until November. Maybe Travis could explain how the athletes are suppose to believe in the system when this crap happens.

Reply to  Taa
2 years ago

FINA’s system only lists tests conducted by or on behalf of FINA. I don’t think FINA has any intention of being a singular drug-testing body that tests often enough to stand alone. I think they intend to be another layer on top of, for example, testing done by CHINADA or at the Asian Games in Sun’s case, and especially to support anti-doping efforts in countries without robust anti-doping programs. I would love to see data on how much it costs to conduct an anti-doping control test.

Sun was tested 6 times by FINA in 2017, for example.

Is it plausible that FINA is tipping Sun off or pulling his name out of the pool? It’s plausible – right now there’s… Read more »

Reply to  Braden Keith
2 years ago

I just have no confidence in the system. The whole independent testing thing seems to be side tracked. I expect that nothing will come out of the CAS hearing but Sun will stand on a makeshift podium outside the hearing room and tell everyone “I win you lose”

13 % Chinese person
2 years ago

Horton & Scott tried to influence the others from taking the podium / shaking hands . They can do what they like but there is no inherent Anglo right to rain on others parade .just because they feel miffed.

When Tygart is talking about time frame ,from Sept 18 – March , he overlooks the fact that 6 months was not long enough for the drug testing company to present its documents. . This is the failing .not Sun . Next the 21 day appeal window which takes us into April .

Then how long is a reasonable time frame from there to present a case to CAS ? 3 months would take it to july-August ( iI… Read more »

2 years ago

Another way to describe this phenomenon is called “Anglo Pride”. Many Anglos really think they own the sports and anyone else who beat them are suspected of cheating. The best example is 1972 men’s Olympic basketball. Soviets won fair and square, and team USA staged a podium protest as they couldn’t imagine losing in a sport that they “owned”. Mack Horton’s podium protest was just continuing a long line of Anglo tradition.

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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