Swimming: Korea's Park to compete at national trials

SEOUL - South Korean swimmer Park Tae-hwan, who completed an 18-month doping ban in March, is to compete in upcoming national trials despite being excluded for selection due to additional sanctions imposed by the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC).

Park was banned by swimming’s governing body FINA after testing positive for testosterone ahead of the 2014 Asian Games, and while the ban expired last month he must wait three more years before he can be considered for national selection again.

Given Park’s profile in Korea, and amid criticism that the KOC regulation punishes an athlete twice for the same offence, speculation grew that it may relax the rule to give the swimmer the chance to compete at the Rio Olympics.

However, the KOC said earlier this month it was “not appropriate to amend national team selection regulations for a specific person”.

Park’s management agency, Team GMP, said in a news release titled, “The unfinished challenge of Park Tae-hwan” on Monday that the swimmer would return from training in Australia this week and would compete at the trials anyway.

The statement said Park would speak to reporters at the conclusion of the swim meet in Gwangju, some 330 kilometres south of Seoul.

Organisers said Park had registered to compete in the 100, 200, 400 and 1,500 metres freestyle races. His first event is the 1,500 on Monday.

While Park has struggled to recapture his best form in recent years, a good performance at the Dong-A Swimming Competition, which doubles as the second round of national trials, could put the KOC in an awkward position.

Park won gold in the 400m freestyle at the 2008 Beijing Games to become the first South Korean to win an Olympic swimming medal. He added silver in the 200 in Beijing, and was second in both events in London four years later.

But Park’s image as the golden boy of Korean sport was shattered early last year when it emerged he had tested positive for testosterone ahead of the Incheon Asian Games.

The 26-year-old attributed the failed test to an injection he received at a local clinic, where he said he was being treated for a skin complaint and where he also had some vitamin shots and chiropractic treatment.