Swimming officials from Australia and China are jumping into the fray as a feud over doping between swimmers Mack Horton and Sun Yang keeps boiling over at the Rio Olympics.
The Chinese Swimming Association on Monday asked Horton to apologize for his "inappropriate words" after he labeled Sun a "drug cheat" — a reference to Sun's three-month 2014 suspension over banned heart medication. Australia's Olympic Committee, hours later, shot back in Horton's defence, saying he was speaking his mind in support of clean athletes, and wished him luck.
Horton, 20, made a dig at Sun while the two attended a press conference Saturday after Horton unseated the Chinese defending champion in the 400-meter freestyle. It was the second time in days that Horton had publicly referred to Sun's drug suspension as part of what the Australian team acknowledged is a campaign to unsettle the Chinese star.
Sun had earlier been accused of splashing water at Horton in an apparent attempt to get his attention and Horton made his initial "drug cheat" reference when asked why he had ignored Sun.
Sun, 24, who won two golds at the 2012 London Games, has a long history of bad behaviour and tangling with others. He has been accused of disruptive pool behaviour by swimmers — both men and women — from several countries. The Chinese team briefly banned him from competing following a raft of disciplinary issues, including crashing a friend's Porsche SUV into a bus in 2013 while driving without a license, landing him in jail.
Sun has previously said he did not know the medication trimetazidine, which he took for chronic heart palpitations, had been placed on the banned list when he tested positive.
The 2-meter (6-foot-6-inch) Chinese star burst into tears Sunday after losing to Horton, garnering an outpouring of support from Chinese social media users who pilloried Horton on his Facebook page. The Australian was accused of snubbing Sun's attempt to congratulate him on his win after the race, although the two did briefly shake hands at the podium.
Chinese swim team manager Xu Qi also laid into Horton, saying the Australian had "hurt the feelings between Chinese and Australian swimmers" and showed "a lack of good manners and upbringing," according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Sun appeared to get his swagger back Monday as he told reporters at an Olympic village bus stop that he is "the king" in the 1,500-meter freestyle event scheduled for Sunday, when he will again compete against Horton.