Firm investigating allegations against speedskating coach say there is not enough evidence to support claims of abuse (+video)

Published: Friday, Oct. 5 2012 5:03 p.m. MDT

Simon Cho press conference, as Cho address allegations that have been made in the arbitration demand brought by a group of speed skaters against US Speedskating and the coaches Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — On the same day Olympic bronze medalist Simon Cho admitted to bending the blade of a Canadian skater during the 2011 World Championships, an investigation into allegations against the coach the 20-year-old skater said ordered him to sabotage the Canadians concluded there was not enough evidence to support Cho's claim or the allegations of physical and emotional abuse against Jae Su Chun.

"At the end of the day, after reviewing all of the allegations and talking to those who spent every day with the skaters, we concluded that there was no evidence of a pattern of physical abuse," said Greg Little, attorney for the New York-based law firm of White and Case. "There was no pattern of emotional abuse. I want to emphasize that we're not condoning the methods or the tactics that were used by U.S. Speedskating coaches. We are also not questioning the sincerity of the skaters who made the allegations."

Cho's confession coupled with the findings of White and Case mean there will be no quick resolution to the controversy that has already threatened to keep some of the skaters who qualified for the U.S. fall World Cup team from skating with the national program.

It also means the skaters who qualified for that team will have to commit to skating with the U.S. national team by Oct. 13, and currently that team has no coach. Spokeswoman Tamara Castellano said they hope to have a coach in place by Monday at the latest.

Chun was placed on administrative leave Sept. 19, and his assistant coach Jun Hyung Yeo was named interim head coach. But Yeo was placed on administrative leave Friday after U.S. speedskating officials received an executive summary of White and Case's investigation, which confirmed that Chun and Yeo both knew of the tampering but failed to report it.

Little said they also couldn't substantiate Cho's claim that Chun ordered him to tamper with his competitor's skates.

"Based on our investigation, where we do not have subpoena power, witnesses were not testifying under oath, there was not the back and forth that you see in an adversarial proceeding like a trial or arbitration, our view is that there were conflicting, contradictory reports of what actually took place by three, now four, critical players. Based upon that, we did not feel there was sufficient evidence for us to say, as independent investigators, that it was more likely than not, that coach (Chun) told Simon to tamper with those skates."

Attorney for U.S. Speedskating Steve Smith said disciplinary proceedings have been initiated against Cho, Chun and Yeo regarding the tampering. There is no timeline for those proceedings, which could include hearings and arbitration.

Friday began with Cho admitting to bending the blade of Canadian skater Olivier Jean after Chun "repeatedly" and "aggressively" demanded that do so. The allegation first came to light in a demand for arbitration brought by 13 of the 14 skaters who said Chun was verbally, physically and emotionally abusive. Nine other skaters issued a statement of support for Chun a day later.

Cho was not included in either group, and in fact, he said he left to train in France for the summer so he could stay out of the brewing controversy.

"I'm deeply embarrassed and sad to confirm certain allegations that have been made in an arbitration (demand) brought by my fellow speedskaters against U.S. speedskating coaches," said Cho, who held a press conference to address the allegations at 10 a.m. (MST) in downtown Salt Lake City. "A year and a half ago, at the World Team Championships in Warsaw, Poland, after the U.S. had been eliminated from the competition, I tampered with the skate that belonged to a Canadian team skater after being pressured to do so by my coach Jae Su Chun."

That skate belonged Oliver Jean, who was unable to skate in the finals, but Cho said the action was not directed at Jean specifically.

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