Those in the anti-Chun camp - including some who were among his strongest supporters in the past - now accuse Coach Chun of physical and emotional abuse. They have moved openly to have him fired. These skaters appear united in their belief that Coach Chun has stripped from them the joy of speed skating and harmed their performance. But beyond that, each seems to be uniquely unhappy with Coach Chun's methods based on his or her own particular circumstances. Some allege that Coach Chun is responsible for injuries new and preexisting, others hold him responsible for funding problems, or for cutting them from the team, or for their declining performance. Some of these skaters have opined that Coach Chun was too aggressive in voicing his concerns about their performance; others have said he ignored them.
A challenge in this investigation was to determine whether these many and sometimes contradictory allegations arose from actual physical and/or emotional abuse or were instead driven by dissatisfaction with Coach Chun's coaching style, or something else entirely. In making our assessment we have examined the USS Code of Conduct, which leaves, among other terms, "physical abuse," "harm" and "mental abuse" undefined. We looked to the U.S. Olympic Committee's Coaching Ethics Code, a recent arbitral decision that interpreted the USS Code of Conduct, materials and explanations provided by the U.S. Olympic Committee's Safe Sport
PRIVILEGED & CONFIDENTIAL ATTORNEY WORK PRODUCT
Program, and the context, facts and circumstances of the situation facing us to provide standards for our assessment.
The most serious accusation of physical abuse arises from an event - physical contact between Coach Chun and Ryan Cox in Harbin, China in 2008 - that was not witnessed by any of the accusers. Nonetheless, the group alleging physical abuse variably characterized the incident as Coach Chun slamming Mr.. Cox against the elevator wall, Coach Chun beating him in the elevator, or having "shoved [Mr. Cox] against an elevator door by his neck" and having "taken care of him." The only two participants actually involved in the altercation - Coach Chun and Mr. Cox - admit that there was some contact, but described it as Coach Chun pushing Mr. Cox twice against a wall without causing him physical harm after Mr. Cox had disrespected his team and talked back to his coach.
After the incident was inaccurately described in legal documents leaked to the press, Mr. Cox wrote an unsolicited e-mail to Coach Chun on September 16, 2012. Mr. Cox expressed great admiration and respect for Coach Chun, as follows:
"I want you to know that even though we didn't see eye to eye on many things, I still respected you as a great coach. You are one of the best coaches in the World! [...] I always enjoyed your playful seriousness to always do better, to always go faster and always push harder. You have made me, and many other skaters, better skaters and better people. [...] You are a great coach! And always will be! [...] If you need ANYTHING don't be afraid to call me!" (Emphasis in original)
We have examined this incident and all of the other allegations of physical abuse raised by the unsigned skaters against Coach Chun and believe that individually they do not constitute physical abuse and collectively they do not constitute a pattern of abuse. In arriving at this conclusion, we interviewed not just the USS athletes, coaches and administrators, but USS support staff who were in routine contact on and off the ice with the skaters. These USS staffers uniformly denied that they had witnessed or were aware of any incidents of physical abuse. We found their independent, careful and credible assessment to be helpful in drawing this conclusion.
PRIVILEGED & CONFIDENTIAL ATTORNEY WORK PRODUCT
Our investigation has revealed that Coach Chun is an intense and demanding coach; that his spoken English often does not permit the expression of nuance; that his personality and coaching style can be abrasive; and that he frequently does not communicate effectively with his skaters. The allegations against Coach Chun are troubling. We also believe that a number of incidents identified by the skaters should have been handled differently, and in retrospect Coach Chun agrees with that assessment. But these relatively isolated though admittedly disturbing incidents did not in our view, when looked at in context and mindful of the totality of the circumstances, constitute a pattern of emotional abuse. This conclusion should not, however, be viewed as an endorsement of Coach Chun's training methods and tactics.
In arriving at this conclusion, the independent, careful and credible assessment of support staff - in particular a sports psychology consultant/mental skills coach who was frequently consulted by skaters - that they had neither witnessed nor were aware of emotional abuse was helpful. The genuine respect, loyalty and affection that the current National Team skaters have for Coach Chun was compelling. And the evidence that Coach Chun, when alerted to issues of concern to the skaters and cultural differences that he may not have been aware of, made good- faith efforts to moderate his behavior, and that there was improvement across his tenure, was persuasive.
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