Fri, Nov 19, 2010 - Page 1 News List

SOCKGATE: World taekwondo official insists Yang broke rules

AP, GUANGZHOU, China

Officials from taekwondo’s world governing body stopped just short of accusing a Taiwanese athlete of cheating, defending their decision to disqualify her in what was the first major judging controversy at the 2010 Asian Games.

Yang Shu-chun’s (楊淑君) disqualification from her under-49kg match has set off a furor overnight in Taiwan.

Taiwanese media and online commentaries accused China of playing dirty tricks to help their own competitor, Wu Jingyu (吳靜鈺), win the gold.

World Taekwondo Federation secretary general Yang Jin-suk deflected suggestions of controversy at a hastily arranged news conference yesterday. He said that although Yang Shu-chun had passed a pre-fight inspection, a representative of the equipment manufacturer spotted illegal palm-sized sensors attached to the heels of her socks during the competition and alerted match officials.

The sensors are used to indicate impact, and are used in scoring taekwondo.

“It’s clearly manipulative behavior, intent of cheating, that’s the reason why the individual was disqualified,” Yang Jin-suk said.

“Are we happy? No. It’s very sad to make that decision,” he said.

Yang Jin-suk said he was not accusing the 25-year-old Taiwanese of cheating, only that he was relaying the facts of an initial investigation.

Officials have not yet interviewed the athlete or her coach, and any possible longer-term punishment would not be issued until after the Asian Games, he said.

Yang Shu-chun was leading 9-0 in the first round on Wednesday when her bout was stopped. She refused to leave the mat for a while and tearfully argued the call. Her coach also pleaded with officials for an explanation.

Yang Jin-suk said there was no question of whether rules were breached. The sensors were “taken away from the player’s socks in the competition area. How can we deny that?” he said.

The taekwondo official showed the sensors to reporters, explaining how they are meant to be attached to either side of the sock’s instep and had apparently been trimmed to fit the felt-like fabric reinforcing the elastic on the back of the sock.

“It is so obvious it is not designed to go on the heel,” he said, saying the manufacturer has never made a product with a sensor in that spot.

When asked how inspectors could have missed the sensors in pre-match checks, he said it was beside the point because they were a clear violation of rules.

The patches could have easily been attached after the check, he added.

“This is detachable,” he said, holding up a sensor, made of black plastic material and covered in gold dots. “It can be put on anytime, anywhere. It is very small, it can be easily hidden.”

Several questions remained unanswered. How could a seasoned athlete like Yang, who was favored in the matchup against Thi Hau Vu of Vietnam, not be aware of rules for taekwondo equipment? But if she was indeed trying to cheat, the tactic seemed disingenuous since the sensors were attached to the outside of the sock and could easily be spotted, as they eventually were.

WTF officials said a full inquiry would be held into the incident although a final decision would only be made once the Games conclude on Nov. 27.

“Human errors come in three components — an intentional mistake, an accidental mistake and a mistake from ignorance,” Yang Jin-suk said.

“We’ll determine which one. In the process, all the factors are weighed in,” he said.-

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