China’s most decorated winter Olympian, speed skater Wang Meng, has been given permission to return to competition after serving a 13-month ban for punching her team manager in a drunken brawl.
Wang, who has won four Olympic golds, was banned last August after the brawl with team manager Wang Chunlu, who had criticized her for coming back late to a training camp following a night out drinking with five other team mates.
The uncompromising 27-year-old has had several run-ins with officialdom in the past and missed the short track world championships in Shanghai in March, but has been back in training in China’s winter sports centre in Heilongjiang province.
“Based on Wang’s petition and after reviewing her behavior over the past year, we announce the resumption of her qualification in taking part in both domestic and international events starting from the new season,” an official with the Winter Sports Management Center of General Administration of Sport of China told state media.
Wang won 500m gold as well as a silver and bronze at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin before winning the 500m and 1,000m titles and a 3,000m relay gold in Vancouver four years later.
She had been expected to add to her haul at the next Winter Games in Sochi in 2014 until the brawl with her coach in Qingdao last year. Unlike the mostly conservative products of China’s state sports system, Wang’s often dyed hair is a physical manifestation of her outspoken character.
She was previously kicked off the Chinese team in 2007 after criticizing her coach’s tactics at the Asian Winter Games, but returned six months later after a written apology.
Wang had also clashed with police while at a training camp in June last year at Lijiang, a scenic tourist spot in southwestern China.
Wang complained on her microblog that she and her team mates had been beaten up by security guards when celebrating a Dragon Boat Festival at a pub.
After an investigation, police deemed the athletes had violated local regulations by singing and being rowdy after midnight.