Ning Zetao, China’s favourite Olympic heartthrob, has been forced to get off the national swim team and thirsty fans cannot believe their ears.
The news started circulating after a leaked memo on Wednesday, detailing why the swimmer, who is ranked 12th internationally, will not be with the rest of the national team.
The memo from China’s top swimming authority, the Swimming Management Center is dated Oct. 18, 2017, said Ning was kicked off the team for making unauthorised advertising endorsements, as well as showing poor conduct.
It says an incident in which he failed to obey competition rules resulted in the Chinese men’s team missing the 4x200m freestyle relay at the Rio de Janeiro Games last year.
Ning hasn’t exactly hidden his commercial tie-ups, despite warnings from the swimming authority.
The swimmer has made sponsorship deals with Chinese dairy brand Yili, a competitor for Mengniu, which sponsors the official team.
He also has a contract with Adidas — which competes with local sporting goods brand 361 Degrees, a sponsor of the national team as well.
YouJingYaYeBa: “#NingZeTaoFiredByNationalTeam Ning probably didn’t give the leaders up there the money. So many athletes look for endorsements, and he gets punished? They’ve got to pick on the soft persimmons, don’t they? (A saying that roughly equates to “they’ve got to pick on the ones that are easier to bully”)”
Ning’s dismissal wouldn’t be the first bump in Ning’s swimming career — he was suspended in 2011 for doping.
But 2015 was a turning point, after he clinched gold in the men’s 100m freestyle during the FINA world swimming championships in Kazan, Russia.
And his fame burned even brighter during the 2016 Rio Games, when his boyish good looks and eight-pack abs went viral across the country.