Former South Korean Olympic Medalist Swimmer Park Tae Hwan Ineligible for Olympics

Michael Song, April 6, 2016, 4:20 p.m.


Former Olympic swimming gold medalist Park Tae-hwan was ruled out of this year's Rio Summer Games Wednesday following a decision by the nation's top sports body. The Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) said it would not amend its rule preventing athletes who've served doping suspensions from representing the country for three years, starting on the day the suspension ends.

Park recently served an 18-month suspension after testing positive for testosterone, and his ban ended on March 2. The KOC instituted the rule in July 2014, but after Park received his suspension the KOC faced pressure to amend the rule. The legal community has pointed out that the KOC's rule unfairly penalizes athletes twice for the same offense, and that it is similar to the now-annulled "Osaka Rule."

Originally adopted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2008, the rule barred athletes who had served a doping-related suspension for at least half a year from competing at the following Olympic Games. In 2011, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the world's highest sports tribunal, determined that the Osaka Rule was "a violation of the IOC's own Statute and is therefore invalid and unenforceable." The United States Olympic Committee had challenged the rule.

Critics of the KOC say that because the CAS has already deemed such double punishment invalid, the KOC, as a member of the international anti-doping community, should also respect international standards. Park, 26, had been preparing for the national team trials set to start on April 25, while hoping that the KOC would make changes and allow him to compete in his fourth Olympics.

Park won the gold medal in the 400-meter freestyle at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and added the silver in the 200m freestyle at the same Olympics. He remains the only South Korean swimmer to win an Olympic medal of any color. Park won silver medals in both the 200m and 400m freestyle at the 2012 London Olympics. He has also claimed two world championships in the 400m freestyle.

Park may have competed in his last Olympics, but an official from Park's management company, Team GMP, said the KOC's decision doesn't change the swimmer's immediate future. "A bad rule is still a rule," an official from Team GMP said. "For now, nothing wlil change. Park will enter the national team trials as scheduled."

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