The career of China's greatest swimmer may be kaput after he was hit Friday with an eight-year ban for destroying blood samples. Three-time Olympic champion Sun Yang, 28, was found guilty of breaking anti-doping rules when sample collectors paid a visit to his home following the 2018 Asian Games, where he won several gold medals, per the New York Times. During a trial in November, the Court of Arbitration for Sport heard how Sun's mother had instructed a security guard to take a hammer to vials of Sun's blood, per the AP. "The athlete failed to establish that he had a compelling justification to destroy his sample collection containers and forego the doping control," the CAS says. Before the World Anti-Doping Agency brought its complaint, swimming's governing body FINA had issued only a warning to Sun, who claimed collectors lacked proper paperwork.
Rivals have long accused Sun—banned for three months by Chinese authorities after testing positive for a banned stimulant in 2014—of doping. WADA, which requested a ban of two to eight years, said it is satisfied with the ruling, which leaves Sun unable to defend his 200-meter freestyle title at the Tokyo Olympics later this year. But Chinese fans are outraged, per the Times, which describes Sun as "a national hero." "This is unfair. I firmly believe in my innocence," says the 6' 7" swimmer, the first male to win Olympic gold in the sport for China. He plans to appeal to Switzerland's supreme court, but "the appeal would be limited to whether procedures were properly followed and perhaps whether the punishment was proportionate," the Times reports. Three federal appeals have already been dismissed. (Read more Court of Arbitration for Sport stories.)