Park Tae-hwan to compete in Rio

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Park Tae-hwan to compete in Rio

After an emotional and legal roller coaster that lasted for months, Korean swimmer Park Tae-hwan was freed of a doping ban by the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) and is headed to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the fourth Olympics of his career.

The KOC decided to allow Park on the team after a ruling by the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS), an independent institution that mediates disputes between athletes and domestic sports bodies.

The top sports tribunal decided on Friday in favor of Park, who appealed to the CAS in April.

Park became a national hero after winning gold at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the first Korean ever to do so. He was denied a spot on this summer’s Korean Olympics squad despite finishing a suspension by the International Swimming Federation (FINA) for doping.

The KOC black-balled him based on its own regulation that stipulates an athlete who was barred by an international sports organizations cannot represent the country for three years after his or her ban expires. Park’s suspension by FINA ended in March, which meant the KOC regulation effectively ruled him off the national team until March 2019.

Park was excluded from an interim Olympic roster that was announced in May. Given the judgement of the CAS, which described the KOC punishment as double jeopardy, it is now predicted that the KOC will consider revising its controversial regulation.

Park’s Olympics dream seemed bleak at best until last month. The KOC convened a board of directors meeting on June 16 and decided once again to maintain its stance. In response, Park, who initially requested the CAS to wait so he could work things out with KOC, notified the arbitration body, asking it to continue the appeal process.

The 26-year-old swimmer also filed an injunction with the Seoul Eastern District Court, who overrode the ban last week and said Park was eligible to swim in Rio. Since then, Park’s legal representative urged the KOC to follow the ruling by the local court. In response, the KOC said it would not take any further step until after the CAS decision was finalized.

In 2008, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) established the “Osaka Rule,” forbidding athletes from participating in the next Olympics following the end of their doping suspension. Three years later, the CAS judged this to be unfair and petitioned for its elimination. Eventually, the IOC agreed.

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