Thu, Nov 18, 2010 - Page 1 News List

SOCKGATE: Taiwanese disqualified in sensor spat

TEARFUL FAREWELL:Yang Shu-chun and her coach may be punished after staging a sit-down protest following her controversial exit from the Asian Games yesterday

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporter, with agencies, Taipei and Guangzhou, China

Taiwan’s Yang Shu-chun is comforted by her coach after she was disqualified from the women’s under-49kg taekwondo competition yesterday at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China.

Photo: CNA

Taiwanese taekwondo athlete Yang Shu-chun (楊淑君) was disqualified from the Asian Games yesterday over allegations that she used extra sensors in her socks, a move that sparked claims of a conspiracy and a flood of support from indignant Taiwanese fans and lawmakers.

Yang was disqualified in the first round of her under-49kg bout against Vietnamese opponent Vu Thi Hau, while holding a 9-0 lead.

Officials stopped the bout because they believed Yang’s electronic socks, used to register successful kicks, did not meet requirements, even though they had been approved in a pre-bout inspection.

Taiwan’s delegation immediately filed a formal protest, but the Asian Games arbitration committee rejected it and upheld the judge’s ruling.

The disqualification, which World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) secretary-general Yang Jin-suk said was confirmed by a five-member WTF technical committee, left Yang and her coach — who staged a sit-down protest — in tears.

“This was an extremely unfair decision. I don’t know what was wrong. All of my electronic protective equipment followed official specifications,” Yang Shu-chun said.

“I brought two pairs of WTF-certified socks with me. The Chinese examiner asked me to scrap the first pair, but the second pair passed the examination,” she said.

“Before the start of [yesterday’s] bout, the chief judge carefully examined all the equipment on my body and did not raise any questions,” she said.

Liu Yung-lung (劉永隆), one of Taiwan’s coaches, said the decision was arbitrary and unreasonable because the socks were from a WTF-certified brand and had passed Asian Games inspections.

“Even though the model was different, the judge did not find fault with it before the bout. If the judge had brought up the problem at the start, Yang Shu-chun could have changed her socks. This was negligence on the part of the organizers,” Liu said.

“Individual athletes should not have to pay for the authorities’ problems,” he said.

Yang Jin-suk said Yang Shu-chun and Taiwanese coaches are expected to face sanctions for their protest.

Asked why Yang Shu-chun had been disqualified after passing the pre-match inspection, Yang Jin-suk said he “couldn’t explain in detail because it involved personal privacy.”

For Yang Shu-chun, it was a cruel blow. The 2008 Olympic bronze medal winner had hoped to fight the Chinese athlete who beat her in Beijing — Wu Jingyu (吳靜鈺).

“Why wouldn’t they let me compete? I was well prepared to defeat my Chinese rival,” Yang Shu-chun said.

Yang Jin-suk said extra sensors could help the wearer score points more easily under a new electronic scoring system that detects kicks.

“When somebody tries to take advantage by manipulating equipment to gain more points, it’s unfair,” he said.

Saying that all the electronic gear used by Taiwanese athletes at the Asian Games was purchased from the WTF in accordance with its regulations, president of the Chinese Taipei Taekwondo Association, Chen Chien-ping (陳建平) said: “It is hard for us to accept this arbitrary decision.”

Chen said the rest of Taiwan’s taekwondo team would stay in the competition, adding: “Our athletes will turn their anger and sadness into energy and strength to win honors in the event.”

In Taipei, the Executive Yuan and lawmakers across party lines voiced support for Yang Shu-chun.

The Sports Affairs Council (SAC) said in a press release last night that the government has demanded the Asian Taekwondo Union launch an investigation into the case.

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