US Olympic short-track speedskater Simon Cho admitted publicly Friday that he tampered with a Canadian skater’s blades at the World Team Championships in Poland last year, and said he was pressured to do so by his coach, Jae Su Chun.
“He came to me three times… and he told me that if I wanted to carry the team into the next Olympic games that I needed to do this for him,” said Cho at a news conference in Utah.
Chun has denied any wrongdoing. He is on administrative leave.
The tampering came to light during an investigation into charges by a dozen national team members who claim Chun was physically, psychologically and emotionally abusive to the skaters.
US Speedskating, the organization that oversees the sport in North America, said Friday that its investigation had not been able to confirm the charges of abuse or determine that Chun had ordered the tampering, but it did find that Chun and an interim coach were aware of the tampering and did not report it to authorities.
“I speak for everyone at US Speedskating—our staff, athletes and Board of Directors—when I say that we are shocked and disappointed by Simon’s actions,” said Tamara Castellano, communications director for the organization. “In light of Simon’s admission, we will be convening a disciplinary panel; they will meet immediately to determine the appropriate course of action.”
Cho said the coach’s requests were aggressive and intimidating. He admits using a bending machine to alter the blade on a pair of skates owned by Canadian skater Olivier Jean after the US team had been eliminated. Jean was forced out of the competition, and his team was denied a shot at either a gold or silver medal.
Cho, a 2010 Olympic relay bronze medalist, said the coach was angry because he thought the Canadians had manipulated the outcome of an earlier race to get the US team eliminated.