Tue, May 03, 2016 - Page 18 News List

South Korean swimmer begs for Olympic chance

Reuters, SEOUL

South Korean swimmer Park Tae-hwan bows at a news conference in Incheon, South Korea, yesterday.

Photo: AFP

South Korea’s Park Tae-hwan yesterday got down on his knees and begged for a chance to compete at the Rio Olympics, as the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) shows no signs of lifting the additional doping sanctions it has imposed on the swimmer.

Park was banned for 18 months by governing body FINA after testing positive for testosterone ahead of the 2014 Asian Games, and while the ban expired in March, he must now wait three more years before he can be considered for selection under KOC rules.

Despite the ban, Park decided to compete at last week’s national trials anyway and won the 100m, 200m, 400m and 1,500m freestyle events. He swam the fourth-fastest time of the year in winning the 400m, clocking 3 minutes, 44.26 seconds.

The 26-year-old, who won gold in the 400m freestyle at the 2008 Beijing Games to become the first South Korean to win an Olympic swimming medal, told a news conference at Incheon City Hall yesterday that he wanted the chance to make amends for his mistake.

“As a swimmer, I feel it is most important to speak through records and results in the pool,” he said. “I hope that I am given a chance so that I can deliver a good performance for the people and contribute to the nation.”

Given Park’s profile in South Korea, and amid criticism that the KOC regulation punishes an athlete twice for the same offense, speculation grew that it might relax the rule to give the swimmer a chance to compete at the Rio Olympics.

However, the KOC last month said it was “not appropriate to amend national team selection regulations for a specific person.”

Park’s image as the golden boy of South Korean sport was shattered early last year when it emerged he had tested positive for testosterone ahead of the Incheon Asian Games.

He attributed the failed test to an injection he received at a local clinic, where he said he was being treated for a skin complaint and where he also had some vitamin shots and chiropractic treatment.

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