BEIJING: China's triple Olympic swimming champion Sun Yang vowed to appeal on Friday (Feb 28) after he received an eight-year ban for refusing to give a doping sample.
"This is unfair. I firmly believe in my innocence," Sun told China's Xinhua news agency soon after the judgement by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
"I will definitely appeal to let more people know the truth."
The Chinese Swimming Association (CSA) said "we deeply regret the decision of CAS" and reiterated Sun's defence that the doping testers who went to his home in September 2018 were not qualified to do the job. A vial of his blood was smashed with a hammer during the incident.
The CSA said the testers were "personnel without professional training and legal qualification to collect athlete samples, and the activity was illegal and invalid".
"We support Sun Yang to continue to safeguard his legitimate rights and interests by legal means," it said.
"At the same time, it is hoped that WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency), sports organisations and doping inspection agencies will improve and perfect the rules, strictly implement the rules, including the certification requirements for doping inspectors and not ignore the legitimate rights of athletes."
The severity of the ban handed out to the 28-year-old Sun, who is hugely popular in China, was greeted with disbelief by his fans.
His punishment for what was a second doping violation was trending on Weibo, China's version of Twitter, with at least 290 million views.
"What conspiracy is this? It's too much," wrote one Weibo user.
"Eight years... is an athlete's professional career," commented another.