By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw
The controversial Chinese swimmer, Sun Yang, was snubbed by the British bronze medallist, Duncan Scott, who refused to shake hands with him, following Sun’s victory on 23 July in the 200m freestyle event at the World Swimming Championships in Gwangju, South Korea.
This led to an outburst of “You’re a loser, I’m a winner!” and gesturing by the Chinese swimmer at Scott.
Sun is competing in the Championships despite a doping case against him pending before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which is due to be heard in September.
Sun served a doping ban in 2014 and was cleared earlier this year of another alleged doping violation by the World Governing Body of Swimming, FINA. However, WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, is challenging this decision before the CAS.
Duncan Scott’s stance has been supported by his British teammate, gold medallist Adam Peaty, who remarked that he was “completely right” and added:
“I think the most important thing as a sportsperson is you have the right to a voice and Duncan showed his voice and so did the crowd and if the fans aren’t wanting him, I don’t even know why he’s here!”
Scott’s snub follows two days after the Australian Olympic champion, Mack Horton, refused to shake hands and share the podium with Sun after the 400m freestyle event in which he was beaten into second place by him.
Both incidents could amount to bringing the sport of swimming into disrepute, but it is understood that no disciplinary action will be taken by FINA against Horton and Scott, despite what may amount, at the least, to lack of sportsmanship. However, in the interests of upholding the integrity of the sport of swimming, some comment, I think, from FINA, at the very least, should be forthcoming.
The right of ‘freedom of expression’ claimed by Peaty has to be tempered by the other fundamental human right of ‘presumption of innocence until found guilty’. This, in practice, is a difficult balancing act to achieve between the exercise of the two rights in relation to any sphere of human endeavour, not least in the case of sport, which arouses passions amongst players and fans alike!
Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw may be contacted by e-mail at ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’