Australia backs swimmer Horton in "drugs cheat" spat with China

Australia has made it clear there will be no apology to Chinese swimming authorities in a row over gold medal-winner Mack Horton's "drug cheat" comments directed at rival Sun Yang.

The dispute continued to make headlines in both countries Monday with Horton coming under fire on Chinese social media following remarks he made before and after winning the 400 metres freestyle gold on Saturday.

Horton's social media accounts have been flooded by angry Chinese fans using the hashtag #apologizetosunyan, Australia's ABC Online reported.

The Chinese Swimming Association has written to its Australian counterpart to demand an apology from Horton.

"We think that his inappropriate comments have greatly harmed the relations of China and Australia, as well as the image of Australian athletes. He has shown a lack of personal quality and manner. We strongly demand the athlete to apologise," the South China Morning Post reported the letter as saying.

But an apology will not be forthcoming.

Swimming Australia chief executive Mark Anderson told Fairfax Media: "We do support our athletes and trust them that when they say things, they say them with respect and openness and transparency.

"Mack made that statement and we absolutely back it. He then needed to come out and deliver and he did."

The Australian Olympic Committee also backed Horton, saying: "Mack is entitled to express a point of view. Under the Team Values ASPIRE the E stands for express yourself, that is his right. He has spoken out in support of clean athletes. This is something he feels strongly about and good luck to him."

Horton has been unapologetic about his remarks. After calling Sun a drug cheat after his heats he again used the term in a post-race press conference - a reference to the Chinese swimmer’s three-month ban in 2014 after testing positive for trimetazidine.

Sun said the medication had been prescribed for heart palpitations and that he did not know it had been placed on the banned list.

Horton was meanwhile lambasted in China's Global Times newspaper, which is close to the ruling Communist Party, in a commentary which also made reference to Australia's history as a penal colony.

"We don't know if it is Horton who is silly or it's the Australian media that is evil, or perhaps Australia just has a different moral standard. The message sent is abnormal and aberrant," the commentary said.

It added: "In many serious essays written by Westerners, Australia is mentioned as a country at the fringes of civilization.

"In some cases, they refer to the country's early history as Britain's offshore prison. This suggests that no one should be surprised at uncivilized acts emanating from the country. We should think the same way."

The last word may not have been spoken in the dispute: Sun will face off against Horton in the 1,500m qualifying heat on Friday. The finals will take place the next day.

Last update: Mon, 08/08/2016 - 11:08
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