Sydney, July 26 (AFP/APP):Australian long-distance swimming great Grant Hackett has hit out at his former mentor Denis Cotterell for suggesting controversial Chinese giant Sun Yang was as clean as he was.
Cotterell, an Australian, coached ex-Olympic and world 1500 metres champion Hackett through much of his career but now works with Sun, who has been targeted in anti-doping protests at the world championships in South Korea.
Triple Olympic champion Sun is facing allegations, outlined in a leaked FINA doping panel report, that he smashed vials of blood with a hammer when testers visited him last year.
He was cleared to compete in Gwangju but the World Anti-Doping Agency has appealed the decision at the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport, putting his career on the line.
It follows a three-month ban in 2014 after testing positive to a banned stimulant, which he claimed was for a heart issue.
Australian Mack Horton and Briton Duncan Scott refused to shake his hand in separate podium snubs in South Korea, but Cotterell came to his defence in an interview with The Australian newspaper on Thursday.
“I love working with an athlete who has paid their dues, has longevity and is still achieving,” he said of Sun. “If you think for a second I would be doing that with someone that is a cheat then people don’t know me. That is an insult.”
He claimed Sun was as clean as Hackett, but that statement was rubbished by the Australian.
“For me, would I probably call myself cleaner than Sun? Absolutely, because I’ve never, ever failed a drug test in my life and I’ve had hundreds,” Hackett told commercial radio station 2GB.
“My track record in comparison to Sun’s is very, very different. I certainly wouldn’t compare myself to Sun at any point in time.”
Despite rejecting the comparison, Hackett said Cotterell was passionate about the sport being clean and if he was aware of any wrongdoing, he would make it public.
“I’ve known Denis for most of my life. I know if he was privy to anything going on he would tell the appropriate authorities about it and remove himself from the situation,” he said.
Hackett added that he felt the podium protests were aimed more at world governing body FINA than Sun, who retained his 200 and 400m freestyle titles in Gwangju.
“I think athletes are frustrated that the system continues to let them down. They see inconsistencies and double standards,” he said.
“It’s not just towards athletes like Sun that people are necessarily frustrated about, but the system and doping authorities not doing their job more effectively.”