SEOUL (Reuters) - Former Olympic swimming champion Park Tae-hwan has asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport to “mediate” with the Korean Olympic Committee, the KOC said on Saturday, after he was left off the team due to a controversial doping ban.
Park, who has already served an 18-month doping ban imposed by world governing body FINA, is fighting to overturn a KOC regulation that has tacked on an additional three-year suspension, which would rule him out of the Rio Olympics.
Critics of the regulation say it punishes an athlete twice for the same offense but the KOC says it is aimed at keeping Korean sport free of doping.
World sport is facing an unprecedented drug crisis and this week’s World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) foundation board meeting was rocked by yet another string of doping bombshells involving Russian athletes.
“Park asked CAS for mediation, and CAS notified the KOC and the swimming federation that such a request came in,” a KOC spokesman said on Saturday.
He added that while Park had requested an interview with the KOC and a meeting had been scheduled for May 25, the committee had not shifted its position.
”There is no change in the KOC stance that doping should be dealt with zero tolerance.”
Park’s management agency said on Saturday he had filed his appeal with CAS on April 26 but asked the sporting tribunal to suspend it two days later until he had received a final decision from the KOC.
“We are still waiting,” said a Team GMP spokeswoman by telephone, emphasizing they would only proceed if the KOC did not provide a “positive resolution”.
Park won gold in the 400 meters freestyle at the 2008 Beijing Games to become the first Korean to win an Olympic swimming medal.
But his reputation was shattered when he tested positive for testosterone ahead of the Asian Games in Sept. 2014.
The 26-year-old attributed the failed test to an injection he received at a local clinic, where he said he was being treated for a skin complaint.
Despite the KOC ban, Park entered national trials this month and won all four of his races in Olympic qualification times.
However, his name was not included on the Korea Swimming Federation’s preliminary list of athletes who will have a shot at making the squad for Rio.
A recent public opinion survey by a prominent local polling company suggested most South Koreans thought Park deserved a second chance, while some experts have suggested the KOC could be in trouble with the International Olympic Committee if it upholds the ban.
In 2011, CAS ruled that the IOC’s “Osaka Rule”, which banned athletes hit with anti-doping suspensions of at least six months from competing at the next Olympic Games, was a violation of its own statutes.
Former World Anti-Doping Agency boss Dick Pound told local media last week that the KOC, as a signatory to the WADA Code, had to abide by the rules laid down for international sport.
Writing by Peter Rutherford; Editing by Ian Ransom