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Taekwondo coach Jean Lopez’s ban lifted in misconduct case

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DENVER (AP) — An arbitration panel has ruled in favor of taekwondo coach Jean Lopez, meaning his name has been removed from the U.S. Center for SafeSport’s sanctioned list and he is free to resume coaching without restriction.

Lopez was declared permanently ineligible in April for sexual misconduct involving three women. The ban was lifted and replaced by a temporary sanction in August pending the arbitration hearing, which was held Dec. 27.

Lopez’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, said Tuesday that arbitrators ruled unanimously in favor of Lopez. His name was removed from the list later in the day.

The decision is the third to be overturned in the 22-month history of the SafeSport Center. It comes four weeks after Lopez’s brother, Olympic champion Steven Lopez, had his sanction lifted after winning arbitration.

Steven Lopez, Olympic taekwondo champion, removed from banned list

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DENVER (AP) — Olympic taekwondo champion Steven Lopez won arbitration Monday in a sexual-misconduct case and had his name removed from the U.S. Center for SafeSport’s banned list.

Lopez was permanently banned in September for sexual misconduct involving a minor. He has denied the allegations.

This marks the first case to be overturned by arbitration in the 21-month history of the center. SafeSport spokesman Dan Hill said arbitration is part of the center’s “code that is built on fairness and has a process for both parties.”

Lopez’s brother and coach, Jean Lopez, remains on the interim restricted list.

The Lopezes are named as defendants in a sex-trafficking lawsuit filed against the SafeSport center, the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Taekwondo.

The lawsuit alleges the organizations were long aware that the Lopezes were sexual predators but kept sending young women with them to competitions and practices.

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Prince Harry, Meghan Markle wear Tonga flag bearer’s Olympic outfit

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Viral Tonga Olympic flag bearer Pita Taufatofua was very much a part of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle‘s two-day visit to the Polynesian kingdom this week.

So much so that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex wore the traditional Tongan garb that Taufatofua made famous at the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony.

“Harry and Meghan making my Olympic outfit look good!” was posted on Taufatofua’s social media.

Taufatofua was in the background of images of the royal couple inspecting the dress. Taufatofua said on social media that he met them.

The 34-year-old has said he plans a Tokyo 2020 Olympic run in a new sport aligned with water, but he has not revealed what the sport is. He also guaranteed that he will earn a medal in Tokyo should he qualify.

Taufatofua became a viral hit for his shirtless, oiled-up debut at the Rio Opening Ceremony, then lost in the first round via mercy rule in the taekwondo tournament.

He made a quixotic bid to qualify for the PyeongChang Winter Games in cross-country skiing — and accomplished the feat, barely, in a sport that has lenient requirements for nations with a lack of winter sports depth.

Taufatofua finished 114th out of 116 in his 15km Olympic cross-country skiing race, nearly 23 minutes behind the winner.

If Taufatofua is able to carry the Tongan flag at a third Opening Ceremony, he will definitely be shirtless again, in a similar outfit to what he wore in Rio and PyeongChang.

“When I went to Rio, I was told by some of our own people [dignitaries], don’t wear this, don’t wear that,” Taufatofua said. “We want you to wear a suit and a tie. I said no. I said, you were taught to wear that suit and that tie 50 years ago. I said, my ancestors go back 1,000 years. I want to wear what they wore because I’m representing them when I carry that flag. They said no, so we carried it in our bags and hid it under our uniforms when we walked in the backstages of Rio and pulled it out when they had no chance to kick us off the team. Then, afterwards, they [other people] said, whose idea was it? They [the Tongan officials] said it was ours. It was all of ours.”

The PyeongChang uniform was headed for the Olympic Museum in Lausanne. The Rio one was placed on his wall at home.

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