Perkins reveals huge twist in Sun Yang trial

Australian Olympic legend Kieren Perkins says questions will be asked if controversial Chinese swimmer Sun Yang performs well at the upcoming Tokyo Games.

Sun is currently awaiting the outcome of a re-trial into a 2018 incident, that saw a drug test end with the destruction of a sample before it could be tested.

Sun claims the testers did not follow the correct procedure.

He was originally banned for eight years for violating anti-doping rules, but that suspension was overturned on appeal last year, with the chairman of the panel found to have showed anti-Chinese bias in a series of social media posts.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) re-heard the case last month, with a decision expected by the end of June.

If Sun is cleared, it would open the door for the 2012 and 2016 gold medalist to compete at the Tokyo Games.

Perkins, now the President of Swimming Australia, says the world will be watching closely if Sun is allowed to compete.

“What will be fascinating to watch is if he is there (in Tokyo) and competes well, it will raise some pretty significant questions on China and the way they’ve managed disqualified athletes,” he told Wide World of Sports.

“The reality is, the rules are very clear that if you are suspended or disqualified through a case like this, you’re not able to train with your squad or interact with your sport through any of its official channels.

“So, if he’s performing well, you’d have to ask where’s he been training, and who’s he been training with, because he shouldn’t have been.

“That will certainly raise some interesting questions.”

Perkins, who won gold at both the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, believes even if Sun is allowed to compete, the ongoing saga will have taken a toll.

“I also think that the challenge and distraction of this has got to impact him. He’s as much human as anybody else,” Perkins said.

“This has been a pretty long and difficult fight, whichever side of the story you want to take, so it will be interesting to see.”

Sun missed China’s Olympic trials last month, but China changed its qualifying process to give an automatic exemption to anyone who won gold at the 2019 world championships.

That ensures Sun a spot on the team for Tokyo if he’s cleared by the CAS, but Perkins isn’t sure that’s the correct approach.

“One of the things that’s fascinating about China as a country, is they’re not short on talent,” he said.

“He’s a big name, and somebody that’s definitely a talent and well known, but he’s one of a big number.

“So, who are they excluding to support him if he’s able to compete? That’s a big call, because he’s got to be at the end of his career, regardless.”

The 29-year-old’s career will almost certainly be over if the CAS upholds the eight-year ban.

Perkins believes that while it’s correct for Sun to exhaust every avenue, he’s expecting the suspension to remain in place.

“I would like to hold onto the belief that the process that’s in place will make the correct call,” he said.

“Appeals are appropriate, and everybody has the right to be able to defend themselves and put forward their story, and have that story prosecuted.

“But I wouldn’t have thought in this case that there’s likely to be a change in outcome.”

Australia’s Mack Horton will be one swimmer keeping a close eye on the appeals process, given his strong stance against Sun in recent years.

Horton called Sun a “drug cheat” in 2016 and refused to stand alongside the Chinese swimmer on the podium at the 2019 world championships.

Perkins, who spoke to Wide World of Sports ahead of this week’s Australian Olympic Trials in Adelaide, which will be broadcast by Amazon Prime, said he’s not worried that Horton will be preoccupied by the circus surrounding Sun.

“Those things are always a risk, they always have the potential to become a distraction,” he said.

“But Mack is one of the more intelligent athletes that you’ll ever come across, he certainly knows how to manage himself and his environment.

“So I’m not concerned about Mack in that regard.”

Perkins noted that during his own career he was able to ignore his competition and focus exclusively on his own performance.

“It’s always been a really fascinating thing, for me during my career the idea that rivalries became personal was only ever a media story and perception,” he said.

“I had a lot of respect for my fellow competitors, but if I’m brutally honest, 99.9 percent of the time I didn’t recognise them or what they were doing.

“I always marvel at those athletes who could name every person who was beside them on the blocks when they raced and the times they swam.

“I can’t do it. I couldn’t tell you. I can barely remember who was on the dais with me at most of my races.

“That’s not a disrespect thing, or a lack of care. For me as an athlete, my focus was on getting the best out of myself and maximising my performance. The other seven people on the blocks with me were just seven people I needed to beat, it didn’t matter who they were or where they came from or what their stories were.”

Perkins said that the nature of swimming meant direct rivalries didn’t develop as they might in other sports.

“For a sport like swimming, there isn’t that direct interaction, it’s not like boxing where you’re physically interacting with your opponents,” he said.

“In swimming you’re in your own lane, so there’s a disassociation that can come with that.

“I was probably also fortunate that most of the guys I raced against were easy to get along with, there weren’t any major personality conflicts.

“There was moments in the media, but I certainly never felt like there was a time where I couldn’t walk into the same room as Grant (Hackett), or Glen (Housman) or Daniel (Kowalski) or Ian (Thorpe) and be uncomfortable, or not want to be there. It was always very respectful.”

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