Park refuses to let Rio prospects go a-begging

Disgraced South Korean swimmer Park Tae Hwan, who won medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, begging members of the Korean Olympic Committee yesterday to allow him to compete in the Rio Games.
Disgraced South Korean swimmer Park Tae Hwan, who won medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, begging members of the Korean Olympic Committee yesterday to allow him to compete in the Rio Games. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SEOUL • Disgraced South Korean swim star Park Tae Hwan got down on his hands and knees yesterday and begged the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) to let him compete in the Rio de Janeiro Games.

The multiple Olympic medallist, 26, completed an 18-month drug ban last month after testing positive for a banned anabolic steroid in out-of-competition controls before the 2014 Asian Games.

But he remains barred from competing in Rio by a KOC rule banning athletes from representing the country for three years after the expiration of any doping ban.

 

"I will be grateful if I could be given another chance to serve my country and put on a good performance for the South Korean people," Park said at an Incheon press event.

He then got down on his knees and bowed his head to the floor, in a traditional Korean gesture of extreme remorse.

Park was once the poster boy of South Korean swimming, courted by advertisers and idolised by fans. He won 400m freestyle gold and 200m freestyle silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and two silver medals at the 2012 London Olympics, as well as 400m world titles in 2007 and 2011.

On his competitive return to the pool last month, he easily won the 100m, 200m, 400m and 1,500m freestyle at the 88th Dong-A meet - which doubles as a national trial.

His performance reignited debate around the fairness of the KOC regulation, which remains the only barrier to Park competing in Rio.

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

His positive doping test was only revealed in January last year, and was initially blamed by Park's management team on the incompetence of a doctor.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 03, 2016, with the headline 'Park refuses to let Rio prospects go a-begging'. Print Edition | Subscribe