Sun Yang in 2015. File source:

We’ve seen tweets lead to writers, broadcasters and even athletes losing jobs, but it’s rarer still to see tweets impact an international doping case. That’s what has happened with Chinese swimmer Sun Yang, though. Sun (seen above in 2015) has long faced accusations of doping, but swimming governing body FINA declined to bring charges against him last year; after that, though, the World Anti-Doping Agency brought their own case against him (alleging that he refused to cooperate with antidoping officials) to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which wound up issuing an eight-year ban to him this February following a November 2019 hearing. Sun appealed to a Swiss federal court with complaints about the CAS  hearing, though, including that panel chair Franco Frattini (a  former Italian foreign minister) had previously made anti-Chinese remarks on Twitter and was not impartial. And that court has now ruled in his favor. Here’s more on that from Tariq Panja of The New York Times:

Sun Yang, a three-time Olympic champion and one of China’s most celebrated athletes, had his eight-year ban from swimming suddenly overturned Wednesday by Switzerland’s federal court, which upheld a challenge questioning the neutrality of one of the panelists who had issued the penalty.

…The judgment, WADA said, was based not on the merits of the case, but on concerns about the chairman of the three-person CAS panel, the former Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini. Sun’s lawyers had appealed to the Swiss federal court after gathering what they said were public comments by Frattini that included anti-Chinese sentiments. News media reports earlier this year highlighted Twitter posts from Frattini’s account expressing disdain over examples of animal cruelty in China. At least one post included a term that is considered an anti-Chinese slur.

Here are two of the Frattini tweets cited by Panja:

As Panja’s story notes, this doesn’t mean the end of the legal battle here. WADA has said that they’ll bring Sun’s case again to a new CAS panel with a different chair.  But this is still quite something to see a Swiss federal court overturn a CAS decision. And this raises questions about who CAS is putting on their panels.

[The New York Times; photo via Oleg Bkhambri (Voltmetro) on Wikipedia]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.