Ming Yang — who in the past has been described as a "fearsome tiger mother" and reportedly instructed her son, Sun, to smash open a box containing his blood — has provided a spicy twist in the doping scandal that's rocked swimming.
According to reports in the Chinese media picked up by Swimming World Magazine, Ming Yang has levelled serious accusations at the Chinese Swimming Association (CSA) in a since-deleted social media post.
Sun Yang, his family and his enormous supporter base in China have been devastated by the eight-year ban handed to the 28-year-old freestyle star that will effectively force him into retirement unless he can have it overturned on appeal.
And it appears his mother, a former volleyball player who has been intricately involved in Sun's career, is directing her frustrations at her home nation.
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Ming has backed long-held suspicions the CSA deliberately covered up Sun's positive test for a banned substance in 2014 so he could compete in that year's Asian Games.
No one outside of China was told about trimetazidine being found in Sun's system until November, 2014, two months after he'd won three gold medals at the event in South Korea.
China's anti-doping authority (CHINADA) revealed the banned stimulant had been discovered at its national championships in May that year, but was "not very serious" and had only warranted a three-month ban, which Sun had served.
CHINADA said it had not announced the suspension until after the Asian Games because it only reveals positive tests every three months.
"Sun is the most famous athlete in China and is known in the world, which means we need to handle his case very cautiously. This is huge bad news but we will not cover it up," CHINADA said. "We announce positive cases and test statistics in our quarterly reports just as WADA requires."
It smelled bad — and now Ming claims it was a deliberate attempt to ensure Sun could shine on the continental stage.
A translation of her social media post includes her version of the message the Sun camp received from the CSA at the time.
"If we report this offence in the way we left it, it will not be approved," Ming alleges. "Now the Asian Games are over, your result will not be affected and the final outcome in this case will not be announced to the public either. We can say that the penalty was for three months sometime between May and October."
Swimming World Magazine reported "Sun is said to have rejected the strategy but the plan was agreed to by his mother".
She would later be accused of taking a leading role in the incident at Sun's home in September, 2018, that has brought down his career after The Court of Arbitration for Sport found Sun's camp destroyed containers holding his blood sample after a disagreement with drug testers.
"This foolish operation, carried out in full view of drug testers, was directed by Ming Yang, a fearsome tiger mother who, since Sun was a boy, has managed every aspect of his development into the greatest freestyle swimmer of his era and a poster boy for China's emergence as a global sporting power," a Sydney Morning Herald report of the incident detailed.
"It is Ming Yang who decides where her 27-year-old son trains and with whom, what he eats and when, who he sees and what he can do outside swimming."
If his appeal fails, deciding what he does outside swimming will take up more time than it used to.
With the Tokyo Olympics just five months away, the reigning 1500m freestyle world record-holder is fighting to save his career and reputation.
A lawyer for Sun, a hugely popular figure in China, issued a fiery statement on Saturday reiterating that he will appeal, based on "a series of procedural errors".
"February 28, 2020 was a dark day. It shows the scene where evil defeats justice and power replaces self-evident truths," Beijing lawyer Zhang Qihuai said in a statement.
"On this day, CAS listened to prejudice, turned a blind eye to rules and procedures, turned a blind eye to facts and evidence, and accepted all lies and false evidence."
The statement reasserted Sun's defence that doping officials who came to his home were not qualified or authorised, and it was they who decided not to pursue testing.
Sun will sue a doping inspector who gave "false evidence", said the lawyer, also accusing the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) of "distorting facts and abuse of power".