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Sun Yang’s chances of Olympic return dashed by China qualifying criteria

Sun Yang

BEIJING, CHINA - JANUARY 18: Sun Yang of China celebrates winning the gold medal after competing in the Men’s 200m Freestyle Final during the day one of FINA Champions Swim Series 2020-Beijing at Ying Tung Swimming Hall of National Olympic Sports Center on January 18, 2020 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

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Sun Yang, the most decorated Chinese swimmer in history, is eligible to return to competition in late May from a four-year suspension, but he will not be able to qualify for the Paris Olympics, according to selection criteria published Friday.

The Chinese Swimming Association criteria states that the Olympic team will be chosen based on results from three meets: last July’s world championships, this coming February’s world championships and a national trials meet in April.

Sun, 32, received a four-year, three-month ban in 2020 due to a doping case, making him ineligible for all of those meets. The suspension stems from Sun having a drug-test sample destroyed with a hammer in 2018.

The Olympic selection criteria also disqualifies athletes who have been banned more than one year for doping violations.

It’s unclear if Sun is planning to return to competition once his ban ends.

From 2011 through 2019, Sun won 14 Olympic or world titles from the 200m freestyle through the 1500m free.

Sun and Katie Ledecky are the only swimmers to win Olympic titles in both the 200m and 1500m frees in a career. The women swam the 1500m at the Olympics for the first time in Tokyo.

Sun ranks fourth in career individual world swimming titles behind Michael Phelps, Ledecky and Swede Sarah Sjöström.

He owns the 1500m free world record set at the 2012 London Olympics.