Mack Horton slapped with warning letter over controversial podium protest

Mack Horton sparked a fierce debate online after refusing to share the podium with accused drug cheat Sun Yang. Source: Getty

Mack Horton’s decision not to stand on the podium with world champion Sun Yang has taken another turn after the Australian swimming star was slapped with a warning letter from the sport’s governing body.

Horton sparked a fierce debate online after refusing to share the podium with accused drug cheat Sun, despite finishing second behind his rival in the world championships on Sunday.

China’s Sun beat Horton to the top spot in the 400m freestyle by 0.73 of a second, making it his fourth-consecutive 400-metres freestyle title.

However, when it came time for the top three to share the podium, Horton chose to stand behind it as Sun took the middle spot. In fact, Horton even refused to pose for photos with his rival, instead standing back and having one alone with bronze medallist Gabrielle Detti of Italy.

The sport’s global governing body FINA has since released a statement that confirmed Swimming Australia and Mack Horton will both be sent formal warning letters following the incident.

“While FINA respects the principle of freedom of speech, it has to be conducted in the right context,” the statement read.

“As in all major sports organisations, our athletes and their entourages are aware of their responsibilities to respect FINA regulations and not use FINA events to make personal statements or gestures.

“The matter over which Mack Horton was allegedly protesting is currently under review by CAS and therefore it is not appropriate for FINA to prejudice this hearing by commenting further.”

Meanwhile, the incident has divided people online, with many applauding Horton’s actions – while other claimed it was uncalled for.

One Twitter user wrote: “We stand with you @_mackhorton,” while another added: “Mack Horton continues to take a stance against Sun Yang refusing to stand on the medal dais with the man accused of smashing his own blood samples. Plenty of strength in his silence and swimmers around the world will stand with him. #westandwithmack.”

However others accused Horton of “humiliating” Australia, with one writing: “@_mackhorton Why are you kneeling on the podium when you are representing AUS!?!?!? Losing the medal is not an excuse to humiliating our country.”

Another added: “Loser… lack of sport spirit.”

And one wrote: “What a shame #mackhorton… This loser prefers to humiliate himself and his own country than to admit he is a runner up….#FINAGwangju2019.”

Do you support Mack Horton’s protest? Or do you think he should have stood on the podium?

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