Chinese swimmer Sun Yang has had his eight-year ban for doping violations referred back to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after the Swiss Federal Supreme Court upheld his appeal against the ban on the grounds of bias by one of the CAS panel.
The decision could potentially clear the way for Sun to compete at next year’s delayed Tokyo Olympics, depending on when the case is heard.
Sun was banned for eight years by CAS in February after it accepted an appeal from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) against a decision by swimming governing body FINA to clear him of wrongdoing for his conduct during a 2018 test.
Sun appealed that decision and the Swiss court confirmed on Thursday that it had upheld a challenge against the CAS Panel “on the grounds of bias of one of the arbitrators of the CAS”.
“The award of the CAS is set aside. The CAS will have to render a new award in the case of Sun Yang in a different composition of the panel,” it said.
WADA said it would “present its case robustly again when the matter returns to the CAS Panel, which will be chaired by a different president.”
The New York Times reported Sun’s lawyers had successfully argued to the Tribunal that the head of the CAS Panel had made public comments that expressed anti-Chinese sentiments.
CAS, based in Switzerland, confirmed in a statement to Reuters that Sun’s objections were raised against the head of the panel and remarks he made on social media.
“The CAS very much regrets that the objections against the President of the Panel have not been raised earlier and that they could not be examined during the CAS proceedings,” it said.
“Obviously, the personal statements published by the President of the Panel on his personal Twitter account in 2018 do not represent the view of CAS.”
It said the case would resume “immediately.”
CAS is sport’s highest tribunal but its decisions can be appealed to the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, which can rule on procedural issues but not the substance of the case.