Ap­plaud all ath­letes to spread sports spirit

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

us­tralian swim­mer Mack­Hor­ton has made a big splash at the 2016 Olympic Games, not be­cause of the gold medal he won in the men’s 400-me­ter freestyle, but be­cause of his com­ment against ri­val Sun Yang of China. Hor­ton called Sun a “drug cheat” dur­ing an in­ter­viewwith the me­dia.

Sun won the gold in the 400me­ter freestyle and 1,500-me­ter freestyle at the Lon­don 2012 Olympics. Two years later, how­ever, Sun was sus­pended from com­pet­i­tive swim­ming for three months by the China Anti-Dop­ing Agency for tak­ing a medicine con­tain­ing a banned sub­stance to treat his heart con­di­tion. Re­turn­ing from the ban, Sun won three golds at the 2014 Asian Games in the Repub­lic of Korea.

AfterHor­ton’s in­ter­view, Chi­nese ne­ti­zens rushed to his SNS ac­count to protest against his ground­less ac­cu­sa­tion. Chi­nese swim­ming team man­ager Xu Qi saidHor­ton’s ac­cu­sa­tion is a “ma­li­cious per­sonal at­tack”, and China’s Olympic swim­ming team de­manded an apol­ogy from the Aus­tralian swim­mer.

The Aus­tralian Olympic swim­ming team, how­ever, sup­ported Hor­ton, say­ing he “is en­ti­tled to ex­press his point of view”. And re­spond­ing to the in­ci­dent, In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee spokesman­Mark Adams said on Mon­day: “We sup­port free­dom of speech but… at the Olympics it’s also about re­spect­ing your rivals. There is a line some­where be­tween peo­ple (be­ing)… free to speak and (hav­ing) re­spect for oth­ers.”

So doesHor­ton spark a con­tro­versy only to en­sure fair com­pe­ti­tion, as he claims?

Dop­ing scan­dals are not newto sports. And ev­ery­body be­lieves sports and sportsper­sons should be free of drugs to en­sure fair com­pe­ti­tion. But whatHor­ton has done out­side the swim­ming pool is against the prin­ci­ple of sports­man­ship, and his rant against dop­ing seems only an ex­cuse to hit out against his op­po­nents.

Since the Olympic Games has a sound and ef­fec­tive anti-dop­ing pro­ce­dure to guar­an­tee fair com­pe­ti­tion, Hor­ton should have ap­proached the anti-dop­ing au­thor­ity if he had any com­plaints against his rivals and waited for a fair judg­ment. By do­ing so, he would have

fol­lowed the es­tab­lished pro­ce­dure to fight against drugs and en­sure fair com­pe­ti­tion.

But in­stead of do­ing that, Hor­ton chose to make sen­sa­tional com­ments against his rivals dur­ing the com­pe­ti­tion, in or­der to pro­voke con­tro­versy and af­fect his op­po­nents’ per­for­mance.

Sun’s re­sponse toHor­ton’s provo­ca­tions has been rea­son­able: “on the Olympics’ com­pe­ti­tion stage, ev­ery ath­lete de­serves to be re­spected and there’s no need to use these cheap tricks to af­fect each other”, Sun said. Be­sides, Sun lived up to Chi­nese peo­ple’s ex­pec­ta­tions by win­ning the 200me­ter freestyle

gold on Tues­day. At the Lon­don 2012 Olympics, Amer­i­can swim­ming team coach John Leonard ques­tioned the mer­its of 16-year-old Chi­nese swim­ming gold medal­ist Ye Shi­wen just be­cause her per­for­mance was be­yond ex­pec­ta­tions. But de­spite Ye never test­ing pos­i­tive and the post-com­pe­ti­tion drug test prov­ing she was clean, the spec­u­la­tions and ru­mors have re­fused to die.

In a BBC in­ter­view, iconic Aus­tralian swim­ming cham­pion Ian Thorpe was asked to com­ment on Ye’s re­mark­able per­for­mance only be­cause she was too young to achieve the feat. But de­spite be­ing Hor­ton’s com­pa­triot, Thorpe de­fended Ye say­ing someWestern peo­ple tend to ques­tion the per­for­mance of ath­letes from other coun­tries be­cause of their bi­ased at­ti­tude.

Thorpe said he im­proved his tim­ing by 5 sec­onds when he was just 16 but that didn’t arouse the same amount of sus­pi­cion. “Let’s re­move na­tion­al­ity from this,” Thorpe said in the in­ter­view, be­cause it goes against the spirit of sports.

To prop­a­gate the spirit of sports, we should ap­plaud the ef­forts of ev­ery ath­lete be­cause that will be a true cel­e­bra­tion of sports­man­ship.

The au­thor is a writer with China Daily. wangy­iqing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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