To shake or not shake, that currently is the most pressing question in the world of sport. Just this week, Australian swimmer Mack Horton refused to shake the hand of Gold medallist Chinese swimmer Sun Yang after Yang beat him in the 400 metres freestyle final at the Swimming World Championships. He also, very contentiously, refused to stand on the podium alongside Yang.
The reason behind Mack’s refusal to stand or shake was because quite frankly Horton, along with many other vocal swimmers, believe that Yang should not be allowed to compete due to ongoing doping allegations. In 2014 Yang served a three-month doping ban and is currently awaiting a hearing with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to see whether he will face any punishment after allegedly smashing vials of his blood with a hammer when visited by drug testers last year.
Horton’s stand is not a new one. In 2016 during the Rio Olympics he said he had ‘no time or respect for drug cheats’ and he is holding firm. Swimming Australia has stood behind their man with Swimming Australia CEO Leigh Russell stating that: ‘Swimming Australia respects the position Mack Horton took during the medal ceremony and understands his sense of frustration'.
Mack Horton may have received a standing ovation when he returned to the athlete’s village but others are not so happy. The Chinese media are furious, with the Chinese Daily stating that Horton showed ‘a lack of respect’ which ‘violated the spirit of sports’. Sorry, but is that the pot calling the kettle black or what? The biggest violation of the spirit of sports is cheating. Nothing more and nothing less, and our man is not on trial for that and yours is. Not only are the Chinese angry but swimming’s governing body FINA has also weighed in and chastised the Aussie. Horton, along with his family, has faced a barrage of abuse on social media, with the extent of hate going as far as death threats.
But swimmers and especially Aussie swimmers are crying out in support of Horton. Swimming superstar and all round legend Susie O’Neill has been one of the Aussie swimmers to come out swinging in Horton's defence. ‘I really respect Mack for what he did’ O’Neill told The Project. ‘It’s tough you know? But as athletes, we really want to compete in a fair playground. And if you feel like it’s not being policed well enough, then it just gets really, really frustrating for the athletes. So, I really commend him for coming out. I’m really passionate about clean sport. I competed in the 90’s against some people who weren’t clean’.
Horton’s stance (no pun intended), whether you agree with it or not, highlights what seems to be a bigger issue at play. It’s not just about one athlete and the scandal surrounding him - it’s about the sport in general and the policing of it. The hard work, dedication and sacrifices of the athletes demand nothing less than the most stringent of policing and the governing bodies of the sport should man up or, should we say in this instance, ‘Mack’ up. As O’Neill said: ‘I think we should commend Mack for putting a spotlight on the sport. I’m not saying anyone is definitely taking drugs, let’s police the sport and have the same rules for everyone’. And ‘so say all of us’…or at least all of us that believe in a fair game, a fair go and an even playing field.
Clare Sultmann is a wife, mother of 3 and the founder of Dear Molly. As a survivor of a catastrophic accident, former barrister at law, published author, and nationally accredited mediator Clare has returned to work in a different capacity. Relocating to Noosa shortly after the birth of her first child, Clare found it difficult to make meaningful and real connections with other like-minded women away from her own network of friends. With this in mind, Clare’s idea was born. Dear Molly aims to provide connections for like-minded women in a real, meaningful and positive manner. It a platform to share, communicate and inspire other women about their ‘real’ life.