By Sangwon Yoon
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Two South Korean Olympic medalists in short-track speed skating have been banned from competing for three years for their alleged involvement in a race-fixing scandal, a Korea Skating Union (KSU) official said on May 6.
The KSU suspended Lee Jung-su and Kwak Yoon-gy from all competitions until April 2013, as punishment for allegedly helping to rig competitions and national team trials in March, the official said.
The official asked not to be identified because the case was ongoing.
The two athletes received notice on May 4 and had seven days to file an appeal.
The penalty is heavier than the one-year ban proposed by a special joint commission of inquiry that convened last month, made up of representatives from he Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the Korean Olympic Committee, and the KSU.
Jeon Jae-mok, who coached the national team, was permanently expelled from the sport for masterminding results of national team trials, as recommended by the commission.
Lee, 20, who won golds at the Vancouver Olympics in the men’s 1,000 and 1,500 meter races, denied all accusations of helping Coach Jeon fix races, saying that he is a victim “of deep-rooted and wrongful practices on the local sport scene,” according to a Korea Times report. Kwak, 21, silver medalist in the men’s 5,000 meter relay, admitted to being involved.
But this won’t be the end for the skaters, the KSU official said.
“This is just a proposal rather than a final binding decision by the KSU,” said the official. “This ban will be devastating for the young stars’ careers, so I am sure they will appeal and find a way out.”
Head of the KSU’s disciplinary committee Park Sung-hyun could not be reached for comment. ♦