SHANGHAI: "Pride of China" Sun Yang is "a victim of political posturing" and did not break doping rules, his lawyer said, after a ban of more than four years put the swimming star out of the Tokyo Olympics.
The three-time Olympic champion's career was in tatters on Tuesday after the Court of Arbitration for Sport's suspension for refusing to give a sample to doping inspectors.
At the end of a long-running and controversial case, the Lausanne-based court reduced its original ban of eight years after Sun, 29, appealed to Switzerland's federal supreme court over alleged bias.
The new ban of four years and three months, backdated to February 2020, rules the 1,500m freestyle world record-holder out of next month's Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 Asian Games in his home city of Hangzhou.
Sun, who was banned for three months in 2014 for a separate doping offence, will be eligible to return in time for the Paris 2024 Games, although he will be 32 by then.
Writing on Chinese social media, his lawyer Zhang Qihuai said Sun's legal battle "exposed the complexities involved in fighting international cases and dealing with foreign relations (in sports), the weakness and defects of the domestic system and athlete protection measures.
"Sun Yang fulfilled his responsibilities, but he has become a victim of political posturing in this international case."
Zhang, of Lanpeng Law Firm, called Sun "the pride of China" and added: "No one can understand the helplessness and hardship of athletes in his position.
"I can only say forever: Sun Yang did not violate the rules and there were no violations detected in the results (from doping tests).
"Unfortunately for China and even the world, such an excellent athlete has fallen into the hands of international organisations manipulated by some people."
Sun, who has been dogged by controversy throughout his career, has always maintained his innocence in the murky events of September 2018 when doping inspectors visited his home and a member of his entourage smashed a vial containing a sample of his blood.
The reigning 200m freestyle Olympic champion, who is also an 11-time world champion, says the testers were not qualified or authorised.