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[Gwangju 2019] FINA calls athletes' podium protests 'unfortunate'

The international swimming governing body on Sunday said athletes' podium protests against a fellow swimmer facing doping allegations at the world championships were "unfortunate."

Cornel Marculescu, executive director of FINA, also said FINA is one of the world's leading sports organizations in the fight against doping, trying to dispel notions that it's more concerned about controlling athletes' behavior than the use of performance-enhancing substances in the sport.

Executive director of FINA Cornel Marculescu (far left) (Yonhap)
Executive director of FINA Cornel Marculescu (far left) (Yonhap)

"We're here to demonstrate the value of the aquatic sports. We're here to show to the world that we have fantastic swimming athletes," Marculescu said at a closing press conference for the 18th FINA World Championships, which will draw to a conclusion later Sunday in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul. "When Gwangju people see (protests) happen, it's unfortunate. These things happen and hopefully, they're not going to happen anymore."

Marculescu was referring to actions taken by Australian swimmer Mack Horton and British swimmer Duncan Scott in response to the presence of Chinese star Sun Yang.

Sun is facing allegations that he destroyed vials of his blood sample from a test when visited by a tester last year. FINA still cleared him to compete in Gwangju, but the World Anti-Doping Agency has challenged that decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The hearing is set for September.

Marculescu said the matter concerning Sun is already out of FINA's hands.

"CAS will decide. And whatever CAS decides, we need to accept," he said.

Other swimmers have bristled at Sun's presence here. And Horton, who won the silver medal behind Sun in the men's 400m freestyle last Sunday, refused to share the podium with the Chinese for photos. Two days later, Scott, who took bronze medal in the 200m freestyle while Sun won gold, also kept his distance from the Chinese swimmer. When Scott shunned Sun's offer of a handshake, Sun reportedly screamed at Scott, "You lose! I win!"

All three athletes were warned by FINA for their inappropriate behavior, and the governing body instituted a new rule designed to discourage or prevent similar action in the future.

"Hopefully, after we continue discussing with (national) federations and with athletes, everything will now come together again," Marculescu said. "We're a great family."

Marculescu later said under FINA's new rule, athletes could lose their medals as part of the sanction, though he didn't expect these types of protests will happen again at any rate.

"It's more a personal issue than a doping issue," he opined.

"It's, 'You beat me, and I must beat you somehow.'" 

Swimmers have been as frustrated with FINA as they were with Sun. British swimmer Adam Peaty spoke about the need to form a union so they can have their voice.

Marculescu said few are doing more to battle doping than FINA.

"I think we're leading other international federations in the fight against doping. We're doing out-of-competition tests. We're spending more than $3 million per year on doping tests," he said.

"Always, you'll have incidents here and there. But the general view is FINA continues to understand the situation of doping and do as much as we can." (Yonhap)