Australia's Mack Horton was issued a warning letter for refusing to share the podium with drug cheat Sun Yang. Picture: Ed Jones/AFP
Australia's Mack Horton was issued a warning letter for refusing to share the podium with drug cheat Sun Yang. Picture: Ed Jones/AFP

A slap in the face to clean athletes

JUST when you thought swimming's world governing body couldn't sink any further, they've just plunged to a new low.

By officially warning Swimming Australia and Mack Horton over the Australian's decision not to join Sun Yang on the podium, FINA's cold-blooded rulers have once again shown how out of touch they are with the sport.

This is the same greedy sporting body that has already denied Australian families the chance to watch the world championships on television because they demanded too much money for the broadcast rights.

It's also the same organisation that ignored the wellbeing of swimmers by ludicrously agreeing to stage the finals at the last Olympics in Rio between 10pm and midnight so they could charge higher fees.

And it's the same tight-fisted body that threatened to ban their best swimmers, most of whom are surviving on minimum wage, from competing at next year's Tokyo Olympics if they joined a professional league that promised to pay them properly and promote the sport better.

While there may be some relief that Horton was not stripped of the silver medal he received for finishing runner-up to Sun, the decision to caution him and Australia's national body is a slap in the face to everyone who supports clean sport.

Horton's 'crime' was to stage a silent, peaceful protest against a rival competitor who has already served one ban for doping and is facing an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport after being let off with a caution for smashing his own doping samples with a hammer before they could be tested for drugs.

Swimmer Mack Horton protests against Chinese swimmer and drug cheat Sun Yang. Picture: Warren Brown
Swimmer Mack Horton protests against Chinese swimmer and drug cheat Sun Yang. Picture: Warren Brown

He has already paid a heavy price with social media trolls flooding his accounts with hateful messages and threats.

Swimming Australia, which had no prior knowledge of Horton's plans to protest, has been punished for nothing more than guilt by association.

FINA's pointless warning was not only churlish but also vindictive.

Is it any wonder that swimmers around the world are so disillusioned with the old men running their sport that they have defected en masse to a rebel professional league that wants to modernise the sport and ban drug cheats?

And is it any wonder that elite swimmers from all around the world speak openly about their distrust with the board that is meant to be acting in their best interests?

FINA backed down from its threat to ban competitors from the Olympics, but only after being hit with two antitrust lawsuits, and the decision to caution Horton is political grandstanding at its worst and proves they're not listening to the athletes.

Horton has become the unlikely hero the sport needs more than ever, which is why the best swimmers from around the world gave him a standing ovation after his impromptu protest.

Now FINA needs to take those messages on board and start acting in the best interests of swimmers or be replaced.