rio olympics

‘Above the rules’: Hong Kong’s Geoffrey Cheah wades into doping row with swipe at Sun Yang

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 August, 2016, 7:18am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 August, 2016, 8:43am

Hong Kong’s Geoffrey Cheah won his heat at the Rio Olympics and then felt the need to unburden himself of issues that have been troubling him – also taking a swipe at China for allowing their star swimmer Sun Yang to continue competing after a doping suspension.

Cheah, whose father’s cancer has affected his build-up to the Rio Games, won an Asian Games bronze in 2014 but never stood on the podium. He only received his medal after South Korean Park Tae-hwan was caught cheating.

“I feel pretty sad that it feels like people don’t respect the doping rules,” said Cheah, who clocked 22.46 seconds in his 50m freestyle heat but was unable to reach the next round. “They feel like they’re above the rules.

“I know it’s two years ago but I’m someone who gets the short end of the stick. I didn’t get my chance to stand on the podium at the Asian Games,” added Cheah as he unleashed years of pent-up frustration.

“Also, I don’t see how it’s acceptable that [China’s] Sun Yang can serve a three-month secret suspension and show up at the Asian Games and Olympics as if everything is fine. You can’t even train during suspensions.”

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Sun won the gold medal in the men’s 200 metres freestyle at Rio after earlier finishing second to bitter rival Mack Horton, with the Australian accusing the Chinese swimmer of being a cheat and igniting a war of words that still continues.

“People sometimes don’t talk about these issues but I don’t think there’s any reason to be shy about it because at the end of the day it is swimmers who aren’t doping who get the short end of the stick. A lot of people are angry and disappointed.

“The system is broken. There is a conflict of interest in governance in terms of punishing your own athletes,” Cheah said in reference to Sun being sanctioned by China and not any world body.

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“Where is the real interest to actually hand down a proper punishment because he is a world champion?”

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Stanford graduate Cheah admitted he sometimes wondered why he should bother with a swimming career but said he was trying to use it as motivation.

“It motivates me so that when I go to training I work that much harder to beat them, which I’m absolutely OK with,” he said. “What upsets me is that these swimmers take advantage of all the people who are really serious about making a living out of sport.

“It’s not nice to compete against people who are not on a level playing field.”

Cheah also dismissed the fact that many swimmers have turned up clean tests at the Olympics and over the past few years.

“Did Lance Armstrong test positive?” he asked.