Who Should Be Responsible For Sun Yang’s Ban from Competitions

(Source: Weibo@Sun Yang)

After a few months’ of waiting, Chinese swimmer Sun Yang received penalty from the Court of Arbitration for Sports banning him from competitions for eight-years , the maximum possible penalty. Although Sun has asked his lawyers to appeal the decision, he will very likely miss the Tokyo Olympics this year and end his career in such a disgraceful way.

SEE ALSO: Chinese Swimmer Sun Yang Banned 8 Years For Doping Violation

Right after the result was announced, Sun posted on his Weibo, “I just finished training, and I always believe in my own innocence. I felt shocked, angry, and could not understand the verdict from the Court of Arbitration for Sports!” His post received over four hundred thousand comments, with most people expressing support to Sun, the most successful and influential Chinese male Olympian in the past decade.

However, this universal support started to shatter after Sun posted his own hand-written statement with signatures from visiting WADA personnel. A 95-second-long video showing his interactions with WADA officials, and another hand-written statement from a WADA personnel, who claimed he was only a construction worker and had no clue what a doping test was also surfaced online. In the written and video statements, Sun agreed to not disclose any of the personal identification information of those WADA officials, but he did not keep his word and disclosed those people’s names, jobs, companies, and even government ID numbers.

Distrust towards Sun grew when the testimony of Sun’s mother was published. After the hearing, Sun’s mother received a lot of sympathy from the public after she cried to a journalist that she did not have enough time to make her statement. However, people found that she spent a large portion of her time expressing how hard her son’s training was and how much effort he put into swimming, which was unrelated to what was happening in September 2018. At the same time, a screenshot of her WeChat moments post started to spread online. In it, she blamed that it was the Chinese Swimming Association (CSA) that put her son in this shameful position.

This is Sun’s second doping offense. Five years ago, he was found guilty of doping and served a three-month suspension. Based on her already deleted post, it happened because the list of banned drugs was not updated on time by the Chinese Swimming Association. She also claimed that the CSA attempted to cover up Sun’s positive test back in 2014 so that he could compete in that year’s Asian Games. The post soon prompted a discussion online. People claimed that Sun’s mother was throwing her son into a bigger fire and started to discuss who should take the responsibility of today’s mess.

Sun himself should definitely take the responsibility. Besides his outstanding performance in the swimming pool, Sun’s name is also associated with a host of controversial events, including unlicensed driving, conflicts with his coach who had trained him since before he was famous, a rumor of having an illegitimate kid, and covering the logo of the team’s official sponsor during the podium ceremony because he signed a different personal sponsor earlier. Sun’s personal life outside the pool is full of controversy, but when he was at the top of his game, people ignored all the inappropriate behavior and still took him as a national hero.

Sun’s mother was another target of this discussion. The former volleyball player deeply involved in Sun’s life and career deeply, she has long been playing a prominent role in Sun’s life. Her name, Yang Ming, appeared in almost every piece of news on Sun Yang, from his daily training, to his dating life, to his falling out with his coach, to his fight with the CSA regarding the sponsorship issue. Even when he destroyed his doping test samples, an event that ended Sun’s swimming career, Yang was also playing one of leading roles.

Every time when people pointed out that Sun needed to control his temper and behave more appropriately in public, his mother always got involved, blaming the media for destroying a “national hero”. It is unfair to doubt mother’s love to her son, but it is also undeniable that this all-around control has resulted in more negative impact for Sun than positive one. On the one hand, Yang’s unprofessional behavior harmed his relationship with media, business partners, and co-workers. When Sun was in the hearing, few people stood up to express their support, and the complaints about Sun from his former agency and business partners were easily found online. Additionally, Sun’s controversial behavior showed his immaturity. He was used to the fact that as long as he could win one more medal, he could get away with anything.

The CSA is not an outsider in this story either. Whether Yang’s post in her WeChat was true or not, it was undoubtedly true that the stance the CSA took in Sun’s first offense on doping charges was inappropriate. Although Sun got a chance to compete in the Asian Games that year, he lost the respect of his competitors, fell into disgrace as a “drug taker”, and pushed almost all swimmers to stand on the opposite side from himself.

Among other Chinese athletes who managed to built global careers, Yao Ming and Li Na stand out the most, not only for their athletic achievements, but for their humility. People love them not only because they brought honors to Chinese sports, but also because they broke stereotypes about Chinese athletes as soulless gold-medal machines. Unfortunately, Sun, Sun’s mother, and the CSA did not recognize this point earlier and still took gold medals as their never-expiring protection. Sun might still be confused with why the people who showed their unconditional support for him few weeks ago are now standing against him. He will have to learn that nowadays, gold-medals are no longer the only metric for evaluating an athlete. Instead, people are looking for someone who can deliver a positive image.