Horton wins gold after calling out Sun Yang as drug cheat

Mack Horton called Chinese swimmer Sun Yang a drug cheat, and then went out and dethroned the defending Olympic champion in the 400-meter freestyle.

Gabriele Detti of Italy, Conor Dwyer of the United States and Mack Horton of Australia compete in the Final of the Men's 400m Freestyle on Day 1 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 6, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Sun finished second.

After the preliminaries, Horton was asked about a reported incident between him and Sun at the practice pool earlier in the week. The Aussie said Sun “splashed me to say hello, and I didn’t respond because I don’t have time for drug cheats.”

In 2014, Sun served a three-month suspension for using a banned stimulant.

“The last 50 meters I was thinking about what I said and what would happen if he gets me here,” said Horton, who beat Sun by just 13-hundredths of a second. “I didn’t have a choice but to beat him.”

“I used the words drug cheat because he tested positive,” the Aussie said. “I just have a problem with athletes who have tested positive and are still competing.”

“I don’t think we need to care too much about what the Australian says,” Sun said through a translator. “I’ve got a gold medal (from 2012) and my world ranking. I don’t need to prove myself anymore.”

Still, Sun defended himself after the race.

“I am clean,” he said. “I’ve done whatever it takes to prove I’m a clean athlete.”

Sun described the last four years as being “tough,” in part because of mistakes he’s made.

In November 2013, he was caught driving without a license after an accident in China. At last year’s world championships in Russia, he was accused of an altercation with a female Brazilian swimmer in the warm-up pool and then he failed to show up for the 1,500 freestyle final.

“I’ve learned,” the 24-year-old Chinese swimmer said. “I know now to face up to failure and have a broader perspective. Those are invaluable lessons to me. All those hard-learned lessons will guide me through the rest of my life. Being young, sometimes you can get a bit naughty. You don’t have a lot of common sense.”