SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The head of the South Korean Olympic Committee personally hopes to see Olympic swimming champion Park Tae-hwan compete at this year’s games in Rio de Janeiro despite his exclusion from the national team following a doping suspension.
Kim Jung-haeng‘s comments on Tuesday came a month after his committee made what it then described as an “irreversible” decision to leave Park out of Rio, upholding its rules banning athletes from competing with the national team for an additional three years after the end of their doping suspensions.
“As a former athlete who can emotionally relate with the excitement of being picked (for the national team) and going to the Olympics, [I think Park] should be able to go to the Olympics,” Kim, a former judoka, said.
However, Kim stressed that he was expressing a personal opinion and not the stance of the KOC. While changing the national team eligibility rules would require approval from several committees within the KOC, Kim said that he thinks the issue could be “discussed again if it comes back up.”
After reaching its decision to ban Park from Rio last month, the KOC said in a statement that it would be “inappropriate” to revise national team selection rules for a particular individual.
Park, 26, who in March came off an 18-month ban after testing positive for testosterone in an out-of-competition doping test, argued that the rules are excessive and filed an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Park’s camp is scheduled to meet with KOC secretary general Young Ho Cho to further discuss his eligibility issue.
Park became a national hero after winning the gold medal in the 400m freestyle at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He also won silver in Beijing and added two more silvers at the 2012 London Games. He remains the only South Korean to win an Olympic medal in swimming.