Culture clash: Mack Horton Vs.Sun Yang at Rio Olympics

In the 400m freestyle on Saturday at the Rio Olympic Games, Chinese swimming star Sun Yang performed well, only second to Australian athlete Mack Horton’s 3m41.55s with his 3m41.68s.

When everyone could just move on to the next set of races, Horton said something that sent Chinese media and netizens to outrage – he said it was a “win for the good guys” that he triumphed over Sun, who he dismissed as a “drug cheat”.

Chinese netizens then logged onto Instagram en masse and left messages on Horton’s page, demanding that he apologize. Too many comments comments flooded in, and Horton seems to have changed his Instagram settings to remove them.

Even China’s official press agency, Xinhua, brought out its defence for Sun: “Horton as an athlete is not in a position to decide whether Sun is a drug cheat”, it snarled in an editorial. “Smearing others’ innocence and honor with such irresponsible remarks is intolerable.”

The Chinese Swimming Association has officially asked its counterpart in Australia for Horton’s apology.

Australia’s chef de mission Kitty Chiller said that there will be no apology, and Horton is not sorry for what he said.

Horton’s claim came from the three-month ban that Sun served in 2014, when a test conducted by the Chinese Anti-Doping Agency (CHINADA) found Sun tested positive to trimetazidine, a stimulant that was prohibited in competition at the time. Sun said he unwittingly took it for medical reasons.

The story goes back to 2008, prior to Sun’s widespread fame for his excellence at the 2012 London Olympics. According the doctor who was reportedly in charge of the treatment for Sun’s chest pains in 2008, Sun had indeed been enduring problems with his heart.

Though his medication contained the banned drug in 2014, “Sun had proved with sufficient evidence that he did not intend to cheat, which helped reduce his ban to three months,” according to Zhao Jia, deputy director of CHINADA.

“Innocence speaks for itself,” said Sun on Monday. “I believe that every athlete who comes to the Olympics deserves their respect.”

As to the apology that many Chinese media and netizens are demanding, Chinese web-celeb, Wang Sicong – known as the “national husband of China” for his wealth – commented: “Pushing down on someone’s head to make them apologize is only feasible in China; outside of China, no one would let you do it.”

(Top photo from Baidu Images)

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