SEOUL (Reuters) - The head of South Korea’s swimming federation says there will be time to discuss Park Tae-hwan’s future but first and foremost the swimmer has to apologize for failing a doping test that resulted in an 18-month ban.
Park, a twice world champion and the first Korean to win an Olympic swimming medal, tested positive for testosterone in an out-of-competition test conducted by the sport’s ruling body FINA last September ahead of the Asian Games.
The suspension was backdated from Sept. 3 and runs through March 2 2016, leaving the door open for Park to return in time of the Rio Olympics.
However, under current Korean Olympic Committee rules Park would then have to wait a further three years before he would be eligible for selection again, by which time he would be 29.
KSF President Lee Ki-heung said on Wednesday that rule could be revisited but Park had some explaining to do.
“First and foremost, Park has to sincerely apologize to those who he has disappointed and he should take some time for self-reflection.
“After that we’ll sit down with Park and discuss his situation before deciding what our next step will be,” he told reporters at Incheon airport after flying back from Park’s doping hearing in Switzerland.
Park’s agency, Team GMP, released a statement late on Tuesday apologizing for the failed test.
Lee’s comments echo those of KOC spokesman Park Dong-hee on Tuesday when he said they could look at his situation after the ban expires.
“Once the 18-month disciplinary period is over, and if(Park’s) participation in the Rio Olympics becomes a social issue, it will be possible to review the revision of athlete selection rules from the perspective of what is best for national interest,” he said.
The case has stunned the South Korean sports community, with Park’s legions of fans shocked by the news that the wholesome, clean-cut athlete with the poster-boy looks had fallen foul of a doping test.
Known as “Marine Boy” in South Korea, Park had been left “shocked” by the positive test, which local media said had been a result of a local hospital giving him an injection that contained testosterone.
Seoul prosecutors have charged a doctor with professional negligence, according to Yonhap news agency.
Additional reporting by Seoul newsroom; Editing by Patrick Johnston