Gold Coast (Australia) (AFP) – Australian Olympic swimming champion Mack Horton said Sunday he had no regrets over calling out athletes caught cheating — as he did in no uncertain terms at the 2016 Rio Games.
Horton tore into China’s Sun Yang in Brazil two years ago after robbing him of his Olympic 400 metres freestyle title, sniffing: “I don’t have time or respect for drug cheats.”
The 21-year-old, currently preparing for the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, had been asked about Sun and South Korean Park Tae-hwan, who had both previously tested positive for banned substances.
His comments sparked fury from Chinese journalists who confronted Horton at his victory press conference, demanding to know why he had used such frank language.
The swimmer was savaged by Chinese sports fans and press, and his remarks even triggered a diplomatic row between the countries, with Chinese state-run media calling Australia a “second-class citizen” of the West.
But Horton, whose mild manner and Harry Potter-style spectacles belie his toughness, insisted he would not back down if a similar situation arose at the Commonwealth Games.
“Not at all, I don’t think I’d change a thing,” he told reporters. “I guess I’m proud of how I handled myself in Rio.”
“I think athletes know what they’re doing and they know that they’re responsible for what goes into their bodies,” added Horton.
“If they’re caught cheating or they are cheating it’s completely their fault. Hopefully they are a clean Games.”
Horton was asked for his thoughts about the discovery of syringes by a cleaner in the athletes’ village, which triggered an investigation.
Questioned about what he would say to anyone who failed a drugs test in Gold Coast, Horton shrugged: “Er, ‘Cheat!’”
Horton, who bagged 4x200m freestyle gold and 1,500m freestyle silver at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, also declared he was back to full fitness after suffering an allergic reaction to a bee sting last week.
“My arm is all good now,” he said, the swelling now all but gone. “It was just over the weekend it flared up, which was lucky because I wasn’t swimming.
“A couple of years ago I was stung by a bee and lost all my knuckles, but it was nothing compared to this time,” added Horton, who had been wearing a protective bandage on his right arm following his brush with the insect.
“My whole arm blew up so I assume I’m allergic.”