Swimming: We need to talk about doping - Horton

Sun Aug 14, 2016 11:44am EDT
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By Caroline Stauffer

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The Australian swimmer who set off a chain of anti-doping comments at the Olympics says he has no regrets and nothing to apologize for after receiving hundreds of thousands of hate messages on social media.

Mack Horton, 20, called Chinese rival Sun Yang a "drug cheat" before defeating Yang and winning a gold medal in the men's 400 meters freestyle final on Aug 6, inciting the wrath of Chinese social media users.

Yang, who took silver behind Horton, served a three-month ban in 2014 after testing positive for a banned stimulant. He said the stimulant was medication to treat a heart issue and did not enhance his performance.

"I do not think I need to apologize... I just said what is true," Horton told Reuters in an interview on Sunday. "I think people need to be more comfortable talking about doping in sport."

Following Horton's example, American Lilly King wagged her finger at the twice-banned Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova and accused her of cheating before heats on Aug. 8, comments that were later supported by swimming legend Michael Phelps.

"I guess it worked because Lilly King was obviously more comfortable talking about it and so were other athletes," Horton said.

Doping has become a defining issue of the Games, with athletes more outspoken than ever before. The comments have increased tensions between Western athletes and those competing for China and Russia.

"It all get pretty out of control. I had 450,000 hate comments on one of my Instagram photos," Horton said.   Continued...

2016 Rio Olympics - Swimming - Victory Ceremony - Men's 400m Freestyle Victory Ceremony - Olympic Aquatics Stadium - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 06/08/2016. Mack Horton (AUS) of Australia poses with his gold medal.  REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci