Park Tae Hwan’s Doctor Pleads Not Guilty in Negligence Case

kpride, April 21, 2015, 9:05 a.m.

Swimmer Park Tae-hwan's doctor Tuesday pleaded not guilty to misleading him about an injection of a banned substance that stripped him of his Asian Games medals last year.  Park tested positive for testosterone, a substance banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), in October.

The doctor of the Olympic swimming champ, identified only by her surname Kim, had given him an injection of a drug called Nebido. Prosecutors accused the female doctor of professional negligence for failing to disclose the risks and ingredients of the injection.

She is also charged with violating the medical code and causing bodily harm.  She pleaded not guilty to all of the charges at the first hearing of her trial, insisting Park had agreed that it was his responsibility to confirm whether the injection had something to do with doping.  The agreement was made as she is an anti-ageing and health care doctor who is not a doping expert.

They met through a shared acquaintance, and Kim has treated Park free of charge "out of compassion," according to her lawyer, Moon Jeong-il.  "Kim has no professional knowledge in sports and had never treated an athlete before," Moon told the judge at a courtroom in the Seoul Central District Court. "That's why she explicitly asked Park to be the one making the call in October 2013."

The reason she prescribed Nebido was because Park's testosterone level was lower than average, he said.  Besides, it was "totally normal" to experience some pain after an injection, he said, refuting the claim of bodily harm.  Park is the only South Korean to date to hold an Olympic swimming title. He has been suspended from the sport starting retroactively from Sept. 3, the day that FINA, the international swimming federation, collected his samples.

FINA also stripped him of six medals he had captured at the Incheon Asian Games, when all swimming races were held at an arena bearing Park's name. Three of those medals came in relays, and Park's teammates in those races will lose their medals because of Park's suspension.

The suspension ends in March 2016, which theoretically allows him time to compete at the Summer Olympics in August of that year.  The outcome of this trial won't affect WADA's punitive measure, as Article 10 of the World Anti-Doping Code states that athletes "are responsible for their choice of medical personnel and for advising medical personnel that they cannot be given any prohibited substance."

Park apologized for letting down his fans last month.  "I'd like to apologize to the people for causing so much trouble with this unacceptable incident," Park said, fighting back tears, at a press conference.  Park said the doctor had assured him the drug would be clean, but acknowledged he was responsible for the mistake.  Park will testify at the next hearing set for June 4.

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