KEARNS — The International Skating Union found both former Olympic speedskater Simon Cho and former U.S. short-track head coach Jae Su Chun in violation of the organization’s code of ethics.
Cho admitted to bending the blade of a Canadian skater at the 2011 World championships. He said he committed the act after then head coach of the U.S. short-track team, Chun, repeatedly badgered him to do so.
Chun vehemently denied the allegation, which was made the day after U.S. short-track speedskaters competed for a spot on the U.S. World Cup team in October 2012. But Chun, who now coaches a club in Salt Lake City called Salt Lake International, did admit that he knew what Cho had done and that he did not turn him in because he felt sorry for him.
He resigned as head coach after making that admission, but at the time was on administrative leave because of allegations by 14 other skaters that he was verbally, physically and emotionally abusive. An independent investigation by a law firm hired by U.S. speedskating said it couldn't find a pattern of abusive behavior by Chun or his assistants.
Cho’s punishment will be a two-year suspension, effective Oct. 5, 2012, the date of his admission, to Oct. 4, 2014. Chun also receives a two-year suspension, effective Aug. 26, 2013 until Aug, 25, 2015.
The decision came more than two months after the ISU’s hearing in June and on the final day of competition for spots on the U.S. World Cup team. Throughout this weekend's competition skaters on both sides of the issues said they were committed to coming together this season and putting the past behind them.
Chun has been coaching the Salt Lake International athletes this weekend, with his top skater being 500-meter, 1,500-meter and overall short-track champion Jessica Smith. He can’t officially coach at those events but watches from the stands and confers with his skaters during breaks.
Smith said she hopes the decision will allow her coach and the athletes to move forward.
"Definitely, I'm glad it's over with, more for him," Smith said. "He's just glad the decision got made so he can move forward, and so we all can move forward." Smith said she's grateful Chun stayed in Salt Lake City to work with the athletes who not only supported him, but who rely on him and his expertise.
"He's been strong through all of it," she said. "He didn't want to let us down. He stuck it out for the athletes and he wanted our best interests and he knew we wanted him to stay."
She said his commitment to her and her Salt Lake International teammates inspires her through difficult days.
"For him to show up every day and give us everything he has, that's all we can ask for," Smith said. "In the situation he's in, I'm thankful he struck around. You don't see that every single day, a coach that is willing to stick it out, even though people are beating him down."
U.S. speedskating has already punished Chun for not reporting Cho’s tampering, and they won’t add to that punishment, which is a ban on coaching through the 2014 Olympics.
Cho, however, was never punished by U.S. speedskating, and the speedskating board could impose an additional penalty on him. He has not been training or competing at any level in the last year, according to speedskating officials.
Stephen Gough, who took over the U.S. short-track team when Cho resigned with current short-track program director Guy Thibault, said he felt everyone was committed to a more positive environment.
"They're not going to be best friends," said Gough. "We're trying to institute a more positive and respectful atmosphere, and I'm very happy with the progress we've made there because we will have to come together as a World Cup team. We have big ambitions for the relay races, and we need them to be on the same page when it comes to that race."
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