South Korea's Park begs for Olympic chance

Mon May 2, 2016 3:49am EDT
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SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's Park Tae-hwan got down on his knees and begged for the chance to compete at the Rio Games on Monday 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 Korean to win an Olympic swimming medal, told a news conference at Incheon City Hall on Monday 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 added. "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 Korea, and amid criticism that the KOC regulation punishes an athlete twice for the same offence, speculation grew that it may relax the rule to give the swimmer the chance to compete at the Rio Olympics.

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

Park's image as the golden boy of 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.

(Reporting by Jee Heun Kahng; Writing by Peter Rutherford; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

South Korea's Olympic swimming champion Park Tae-hwan reacts as he answers reporters' questions during a news conference at a hotel in Seoul March 27, 2015.  REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji