• Ning Zetao in action during the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Ning Zetao in action during the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. (Photo : Getty Images)

World champion swimmer Ning Zetao has been removed from China's national squad and sent back to his Chinese Navy team due to violation of team rules.

Among the violations were signing sponsorship contracts without the team's consent. The decision to boot out Ning was made way back in October.

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A statement from the Swimming Management Centre of the General Administration of Sport of China added that the 23-year-old Ning did not comply with the competition assignment and refused to take part in a 2016 Rio Olympic qualifying relay event, causing the Chinese men's team to miss the 4x200m freestyle relay.

It also said that Ning's violation of rules has resulted in adverse effects on the team. The statement also emphasized equality and the need to abide by rules in sports.

In 2015, Ning became the first Asian swimmer to capture the gold medal in the 100 meters freestyle at the world championships. However, he only managed a 12th-place finish in the men's 100 freestyle and 30th place in the 50 freestyle in the Rio Games.

The boyishly good looking Ning, a Henan native, has become a household name in China and goes by the nickname Baozi, which means "steamed bun."

Ning had been the subject of social media speculations that he was due to be cut from the Rio Olympics team because of doing too many commercial engagements.

Before the Rio Olympics, Ning inked a sponsorship deal with Chinese dairy brand Yili, which is a rival of China Mengniu Dairy, the Chinese swimming team's official milk sponsor.

Ning also signed a deal with Adidas, which is in direct competition with the team's official apparel sponsor, 361 Degrees. It was supposedly the unauthorized deal that the Chinese National Swimming team mentioned.

The removal from the Chinese National Swimming team should not keep Ning from competing at this year's World Championships.