Firm investigating allegations against speedskating coach say there is not enough evidence to support claims of abuse (+video)
"Although the skate belonged to Oliver Jean, I had no intention of singling him out," said Cho. "It was the biggest mistake of my life and one that I regret with all of my heart."
Cho said Chun initially made the request of Cho and his teammate Jeff Simon, who is one of the 14 skaters who filed a complaint against Chun and two assistant coaches in August.
"He first asked me in English because I was with my teammate, Jeff Simon, at the time," said Cho. "He asked us to mess up their blades. Initially, we both declined. He later came to me personally and made the same request in Korean. He made the request twice."
Cho said that Chun's decision to speak to him in Korean changed the nature of the request.
"When he spoke in Korean, I knew he was serious," said Cho, who is also Korean. "Because at this point, not only was he coming to me as my coach, but as my Korean elder, and when an elder makes a request, it's very difficult to deny."
The third time Chun approached Cho, he told him he would "take 100 percent responsibility" for the act. Cho said that when the two spoke about a month ago, Chun denied ordering him to tamper with the skates. He said he was intimidated and scared and succumbed to the request.
In a statement released through a spokesman on Sept. 16, Chun denied all of the allegations contained in the complaint. The allegations of tampering came out after Chun's denial and he has not issued a statement since.
U.S. Speedskating issued a statement expressing disappointment.
"We do not, under any circumstance, support, condone or tolerate this behavior," the statement said. "We expect our athletes to show respect for their fellow competitors and to uphold the highest ideals of sportsmanship and fair play and to represent themselves, their team and their country with honor. Simon's actions fall far short of these ideals, and are an egregious breach of our code of conduct."
Cho said Chun wasn't abusive toward him, but he confirmed some of the allegations made by other skaters
"I have personally witnessed some of the abuse in question," he said. "I was there when a water bottle was poured on a skater, when a notebook was thrown (at Jeff Simon)." Cho also said he would never skate for Chun again. Simon is one of the skaters who made the World Cup team but who said he will not skate for Chun or Yeo. Cho said he would never again skate for Cho, although he failed to make the fall World Cup team last weekend.
Little pointed out that there were two very polarized groups regarding Chun and Yeo and their coaching methods, and that there were other factors that may have contributed to the problems.
"First off, there was a significant increase in the volume and intensity of the training," he said. "Apparently it was part of the four-year Olympic cycle. For a variety of reasons, there was an absence of consistent athletic trainer support. And those short-term trainers often didn't know the athletes' bodies as well as someone who would have been there on a full-time, permanent basis. There was also the departure of two English-speaking coaches. And there was an overall decrease in the number of coaches, while at the same time, there was an increase in skaters on the team. There were a number of injuries and disappointing performances by the men's team, in the season."
That led to a reduction in funding for some of the men, in part, based on those poor performances.
"There was a general perception among the skaters," White said, "that no one at U.S. Speedskating would listen to their concerns, much less act on them."
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