Australia's Mack Horton competes in a men's 400-meter freestyle heat during the swimming competitions of the World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, July 23, 2017.
Australia's Mack Horton competes in a men's 400-meter freestyle heat during the swimming competitions of the World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, July 23, 2017. Michael Sohn

OPINION: Horton right to protest swimming 'drug cheat'

OPINION: I commend Mack Horton's refusal to stand on the podium at the world swimming titles with China's Sun Yang.

Horton finished second to Sun in the 400 metre freestyle event on Sunday.

Yang has already served a three-month doping ban in 2014 and is facing a Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing in September to answer charges of smashing vials of his blood with a hammer last year.

This is not the first time Horton has had an issue with Sun after he dismissed Sun as a drug cheat prior to the Rio Olympics.

The Australian Dolphins swim team is throwing its support behind Horton and I commend him for his strong and vocal stand.

I support his stand against drug cheats but have been asking myself whether it is right for an athlete representing their country to make a personal statement in that forum.

Horton is not the first athlete to make a statement of conviction on a sporting dais.

The iconic image of United States athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, raising a black-gloved fist at the 1968 Mexico Olympics in protest comes to mind.

The two US athletes received their medals shoeless, but wearing black socks, to represent black poverty.

Smith wore a black scarf around his neck to represent black pride, Carlos had his tracksuit top unzipped to show solidarity with all blue-collar workers in the US and wore a necklace of beads which he said "Were for those individuals that were lynched, or killed and that no-one said a prayer for, that were hung and tarred."

The two athletes were expelled from the games.

I will understand if FINA hands down a sanction to Horton for his protest.

He is representing Australia and not himself when he stands or doesn't stand on the dais.

There has to be some type of sanction or punishment otherwise every medal ceremony could be hijacked by any athlete for their personal statement of choice.

I stand beside Mack Horton and his stance on drug cheats but I also believe that he needs to wear any repercussions that come along with that stance.



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