KAZAN, Russia (AP) Sun Yang hit back at the criticism stemming from his doping ban after defending his world title in the 400-meter freestyle at the swimming world championships Sunday.
China's anti-doping agency revealed in November that Sun served a three-month ban earlier that year after testing positive for the banned stimulant trimetazidine.
''For doping cases I don't understand why the media pay so much attention to this,'' Sun said through a translator. ''Around the world when China has good results people always think something bad. We are training as hard as all athletes in other countries. There is absolutely no doubt about our performances. There are doping cases in other countries, too.
''I don't understand why in the Chinese case the media pay so much attention. I think it's a lack of respect,'' Sun added. ''As athletes we are working very hard and sometimes we have (injuries) and take things we don't know about. Sometimes we make a mistake. Don't treat us as the enemy.''
The doping case appears to have slowed down Sun a bit. For the first half of Sunday's race, James Guy of Britain was ahead of him and on world-record pace.
But Sun surged ahead when it counted and the current Olympic champion won in 3:42.58. He climbed the podium wearing shoes with flashing lights on the soles. Guy took second, 1.17 behind, and Canadian veteran Ryan Cochrane was third, 2.01 back.
''Looking at his times he's not as strong as he used to be,'' Guy said of Sun. ''The back 50 I kind of died a little bit. But it's all about the big one next year.''
Guy was referring to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
''I remember two years ago in my first final I looked at him and said, `Wow, one day I'm going to be racing him and today is that day and hopefully next year as well,'' Guy said. ''And hopefully I can push him as best as I can.''
Cochrane, who specializes in the longer events of the 800 and 1,500 free, also noticed something different about Sun.
''You don't know what Sun Yang is doing,'' Cochrane said. ''I don't think 42 is his best time and maybe there's a little (more) there. But I've noticed year after year that it's better to focus on my own race and what I've worked for all year and not let someone else dictate the race.''
With emerging Australian Mack Horton and the Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri, the 1,500 especially is shaping up as perhaps more competitive than in the past. In recent years, Sun has won the 1,500 by huge margins.
''It used to be one or two people, maybe three, and now it's six or seven,'' Cochrane said of the 1,500 field. ''But I think that's exciting. It really pushes us all to be that much faster and nobody can settle. The best part of swimming is to have a competitive race.''
Andrew Dampf can be followed at www.twitter.com/asdampf