China's Sun Yang arrives to compete in the final of the men's 800m freestyle event during the swimming competition at the 2019 World Championships at Nambu University Municipal Aquatics Center in Gwangju, South Korea, on July 24, 2019. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP)

GWANGJU, – China’s head swim coach has hit back at world championship protests against Sun Yang over fresh allegations of doping breaches, calling them “harmful” and “prejudiced”.

Zhou Jihong defended China’s triple Olympic champion after a leaked FINA doping panel report alleged Sun allowed vials of blood to be smashed with a hammer after being visited by testers last year.

Australia’s Mack Horton and Briton Duncan Scott both snubbed Sun on the medals podium in separate protests over the past week in Gwangju, provoking a furious reaction from the hulking Chinese star but winning support from several top swimmers.

“It is unbelievable and unacceptable that some people publicly defiled the innocence of an elite athlete based on speculation and hearsay,” Zhou told Chinese media on Wednesday.

“It shows prejudice and irrationality. It is of great harm to the sport and the athlete.”

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Horton’s decision not to stand on the podium after taking silver behind Sun in last weekend’s 400m freestyle reignited their war of words.

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, the Australian had said he had “no time for drug cheats” in reference to a three-month ban Sun had previously served for a stimulant he claimed was prescribed to treat a heart condition.

As the barbs flew, China’s state-run media accused Australia of being a “second-class citizen of the West” and “white supremacy”.

His silent protest after Sun retained his 400m world title at Gwangju annoyed Sun, who accused his Aussie rival of “disrespecting China”.

It also brought further criticism from Chinese media, who called Horton a “clown”, while trolls left death threats on his social media accounts. (AFP)


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