Tensions flared between Olympic champion Mack Horton and China’s Sun Yang in the moments after their tightly-fought men’s 400 metre freestyle final, as the Australian confirmed reports that he had earlier described his rival as a “drug cheat”.
Horton, who defeated London champion Sun on Saturday, confirmed remarks he had made to the Australian Associated Press (AAP) about tensions between the two during training.
“I used the word ‘drug cheats’ because he tested positive,” he told reporters about the report that was published before Saturday’s final.
Sun, sitting next to Horton at the media conference, served a three-month ban in 2014 after testing positive for a banned stimulant. He said China’s sports programmes were clean.
“On the competition stage, every athlete deserves to be respected and there’s no need to use these sort of cheap tricks to affect each other,” the 24-year-old Sun added.
Sun, who broke down in tears while talking to reporters after the race and became red-eyed again after the press conference, has suffered a number of setbacks since he won two gold medals at the London Games in 2012.
In 2013, he spent a week in jail for crashing a car driven without a license, and last year was involved in an altercation with a Brazilian swimmer at the World Championships in Russia.
In the AAP report, Horton said Sun had splashed water at him during training.
“It got played up a bit but he splashed me to say hi and I ignored him, I don’t have time or respect for drug cheats,” Horton was quoted as saying in the AAP report.
“He wasn’t too happy about that so he kept splashing me and I just got in and did my thing.”