A salacious scandal that has divided U.S. Speedskating will head to arbitration next month if it is not resolved before then, according to the attorney for 14 skaters who have accused their national-team coach of abuse.
Attorney Edward Williams said the hearing before arbitrator Jeffrey G. Benz has been scheduled for Oct. 3-5 in Salt Lake City, to potentially resolve charges that U.S. Speedskating short-track coach Jae Su Chun abused skaters and coerced them into dirty deeds.
One skater tampered with a rival’s skates at the world championships last year, according to the arbitration filing, and others allege that Chun and his assistants verbally, physically and psychologically abused them. Chun allegedly slammed one skater into a wall, and frequently ridiculed female skaters about their weight, among other things.
The skaters want Chun and assistant coach Jun Hyung Yeo banned from coaching or traveling with the team during the upcoming World Cup season.
Williams said he filed for arbitration because he feared that an ongoing investigation by international law firm White & Case on behalf of U.S. Speedskating would not be complete before skaters compete in crucial races to determine the teams for the first four World Cup races of the season.
Those qualifying races are scheduled to run Sept. 27-30 at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns.
U.S. Speedskating has said it does not know when the investigation will be finished, but that it will remedy any problems that it uncovers.
Williams said the skaters’ biggest fear is that Chun and Yeo will be permitted to remain as coaches when the team travels for the World Cup events in Canada, Japan and China in the next three months - forcing them to either subject themselves further to their alleged abusers or leave the team.
Yeo has been put in charge of the team while Chun is suspended, during the investigation.
The salacious case has divided the short-track team, with more than a dozen skaters lining up behind the allegations, and nine others issuing statement defending Chun.
Two-time Olympic medalist Katherine Reutter has not publicly taken sides, and eight-time medalist Apolo Anton Ohno declined to comment.
Two-time Olympic champion Shani Davis competes in long-track speedskating, but trains short-track with Chun during the offseason and told the Chicago Tribune through a spokesman that he has had a good experience.
“Shani’s been grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Jae Su, who has been a major contributor to his Olympic and World Cup success,” spokesman Nathaniel Mills told The Tribune in an email. “In addition to expert coaching, Shani has experienced only respect and appreciation from Jae Su, but he [Shani] doesn’t presume to know what others’ experiences have been.”
The arbitrator in the case is the same one who ruled in March that Olympic champion Kim Dong-Sung of South Korea should be banned from coaching in the U.S. because of abuse of young skaters at a Baltimore skating club.
Kim is most widely known in the U.S. as the skater who beat Ohno in the 1,500 meters at the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics, but was disqualified for blocking during the race. Ohno was awarded gold, but angry Korean fans crashed the computer server at the U.S. Olympic Committee with angry emails protesting the decision.