Sun Yang Ordered To Pay WADA Legal Costs Of Appeal Against Eight-Year Ban Now Heading Back For Retrial

2021-03-11 Reading Time: 3 minutes
Sun Yang - by Patrick B. Kraemer

Sun Yang has been ordered by the Swiss Federal Tribunal (SFT) to pay the legal costs of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) incurred defending the swimmer’s appeal against an eight-year suspension for manipulation of a drug-test sample during an out-of-competition check near his home in September  2018.

The decision clears the way for the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to set a timetable for the retrial of the events involving Sun Yang and an acrimonious visit to his home by a Chinese anti-doping test team  in 2018.

A panel of three CAS judges voted in WADA’s favour after a hearing in November 2019 and Sun Yang was handed down an eight-year suspension that reflected the case at hand and his status as a repeat offender, the Chinese freestyler having already been barred for a anti-doping violation in 2014.

Sun’s appeal to have that verdict overturn by the court of last resort in such cases, the SFT, was successful on specific grounds. While the SFT made clear that it was nor ruling on the merits of the case and the arguments that led to a unanimous decision to rule in WADA’s favour, it agreed with Sun’s legal team that one of the judges had been proven to have acted in a manner that ensured he was not beyond reproach. 

When considering Sun’s appeal, lodged on June 15, 2020, the SFT took into account tweets posted in May and June, 2019, by the chairman of the CAS Panel, former Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini, in which he used racist terms referring to Chinese ethnicity when railing against animal cruelly, namely the tormenting, attempted drowning and slaughter of dogs in China.

On the basis that Frattini could be viewed as having a general bias against Chinese people, the SFT overturned the February 2020 decision in WADA’s favour, set aside the eight-year ban and sent the cases back to CAS for retrial.

Retrial Of Sun Yang Case

No date has yet been set for a rerun of the CAS hearing, with at least one new panel member among the judges. The swimming community is keeping a keen eye on the timing of the case in relation to Covid-delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, due to start on July 23 this year. China has not ruled out the possibility that Sun might be eligible to race in Tokyo if fit enough to be selected.

His presence would, yet again, be controversial. At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Sun Yang and others towing a doping record were booed and jeered from the stands each time they walked out to race. Three years on at the Gwangju 2019 World Championships, peaceful podium protests against Sun’s presence were staged by Mack Horton, of Australia, and Duncan Scott, of Britain. They were reprimanded by FINA, as was Sun after he shouted insults at Scott when leaving the podium after taking gold in a 200m freestyle final that saw Lithuanian Danas Rapsys touch first before being disqualified for a false start. All of that unfolded under the giant banner bearing the mantra of the meet: “Dive into Peace”.

As Sun Yang, WADA and FINA prepared to return to CAS, the Swiss Tribunal today issued its verdict on Sun’s appeal against costs.

The SFT stated: 

  • “The appeal has become devoid of purpose. Case 4A_192 / 2020 is struck out.”
  • “Legal costs, set at 2,000 francs, are charged to the appellant (Sun). The balance of the advance on costs is returned to him.”
  • The appellant will pay the respondent foundation (WADA) compensation of 7,000 francs for costs. This compensation will be deducted from the sureties spontaneously deposited with the Federal Tribunal Fund. The balance of the amount paid as security is released in favour of the appellant (Sun).
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