Gwangju: World championship swimmers slammed China's Sun Yang over lurid doping allegations and said competitors were firmly behind Australia's Mack Horton, who snubbed the Olympic star on the podium.
America's Matt Grevers claimed many competitors don't trust Sun, while world record-holder Lilly King revealed athletes erupted in applause after Horton refused to join his rival on the podium for photos after the 400 metres freestyle medals ceremony.
Triple Olympic champion Sun is facing allegations, outlined in a leaked FINA doping panel report, that he smashed vials of blood with a hammer when testers visited him last year.
FINA cleared Sun to compete but the World Anti-Doping Agency has appealed the decision at the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport, putting the swimmer's career on the line.
If Sun is found guilty of a doping violation, he could face a lifetime ban after serving a three-month suspension in 2014 for taking a banned stimulant he claimed was for a heart problem.
Grevers, along with King and several other swimmers, praised Australian Mack Horton for his risky protest on Sunday after finishing second behind Sun in the 400m freestyle final in Gwangju, South Korea.
"We don't know if there's going to be penalties or sanctions against him (Horton) but I think he knew there were risks and felt strongly enough to still do it," said the American backstroker.
"It's obviously something he feels passionate about. I don't feel like it really hurt Sun Yang. It's just to let him know that it was a weird incident and until it gets uncovered, we don't really trust you."
Australian Mitch Larkin also backed the stand of his team-mate Horton, who called Sun a drug cheat before beating him at the 2016 Rio Olympics, two years after his Chinese rival tested positive for the banned stimulant.
"I'm super-proud of Mack," said Larkin after the morning's 100m backstroke heats.”