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Horton issued warning over podium protest

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Roar Guru
23rd July, 2019
31

Mack Horton and Swimming Australia will receive a warning from world body FINA over a podium protest after Sun Yang’s 400m freestyle victory in South Korea.

Swimming Australia and Mack Horton will receive an official warning from FINA after the Olympic champion sensationally protested controversial Chinese star Sun Yang’s 400m freestyle win at the world swimming titles.

Swimming Australia was confident Horton would escape sanction after refusing to shake hands with Sun and not joining his bitter rival on the podium on the titles’ opening night at Gwangju, South Korea on Sunday.

However, FINA released a statement on Monday night that confirmed not only Horton but also the national body would receive a warning letter despite Swimming Australia claiming it had no prior knowledge of his protest.

“The FINA executive met today in Gwangju to analyse the situation related with the men’s 400m free victory ceremony and has decided to send a warning letter to Swimming Australia and to Mack Horton,” the statement said.

“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.”

Horton snubbed Sun, who served a 2014 doping ban, after the triple Olympic champion was allowed to compete ahead of a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) hearing in September that may end the Chinese star’s career.

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The 10-time world champion has been accused of smashing vials of his blood with a hammer during a clash last year with testers and faces a lifetime ban if found guilty.

Horton’s actions polarised the public but American breaststroke champion Lilly King revealed the Australian received a standing ovation at the athletes’ village for refusing to acknowledge Sun on Sunday night.

“We were kind of waiting around for that awards ceremony to see what was going to happen and yeah it was awesome,” two-time Olympic gold medallist King said.

“When we walked into the dining hall, he walked in after us and like the whole dining hall erupted in applause so it was pretty great to see the athletes united on his stance and supporting him as well.

“I don’t think anyone at FINA’s going to stand up for the athletes so the athletes have to stand up for themselves.”

Sun – who claimed a fourth straight 400m world title – wasn’t so impressed, saying Horton’s stance was disrespectful to China.

“It was unfortunate because disrespecting me is okay but disrespecting China was very unfortunate and I felt sorry about that,” he said.

The Australian team supported Horton’s stance but claimed they had no prior knowledge of the protest.

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“That was his idea to do that. But let’s put it this way, I understand him very much,” Dolphins head coach Jacco Verhaeren said.

Teammate Mitch Larkin said “99 per cent” of athletes at Gwangju backed Horton’s Sun snub.

“We are all fighting for a clean sport,” he said.

Horton’s bitter rivalry erupted at the Rio Olympics when he dismissed Sun as a “drug cheat” before upsetting the Chinese star to claim a shock 400m freestyle gold.

© AAP