Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) Speedskater Simon Cho admits at a press conference in Salt Lake City Friday October 5 that he tampered with a rival’s skate at the world championships last year. He said that he was pressured into the act by short-track coach Jae Sun Chun.
Speedskater Cho admits tampering, alleges coach ‘pressured’ him
Sports » U.S. speedskating probe unable to determine if coach ordered tampering.
First Published Oct 05 2012 08:23 am • Last Updated Jan 14 2013 11:31 pm

Alone in an empty locker room, Simon Cho had only seconds to carry out what he believed was his coach’s order.

The short-track speedskater grabbed the closest skate he saw during a break at the world championships last year in Poland, knowing it belonged to a Canadian rival, and quickly bent it beyond repair with a tool usually used to fix skates.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

"It was the biggest mistake of my life," Cho said.

The 20-year-old, who grew up in suburban Baltimore and won a bronze medal in the relay at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics after living and training in Utah, confessed to and apologized for the sabotage at a press conference Friday at his attorney’s office in downtown Salt Lake City. The confession followed weeks of speculation stemming from abuse allegations leveled against national-team coach Jae Su Chun.

But just three hours later, U.S. Speedskating held a press conference of its own at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, where attorneys from international law firm White & Case said their seven-week investigation into the allegations could not determine whether Chun actually ordered the tampering.

They also found "no pattern" of physical or emotional abuse by Chun.

However, the investigators did say that Chun and assistant coach Jun Hyung Yeo admitted knowing about the tampering "immediately" and did not report it to U.S. Speedskating.

For that, the federation suspended Yeo — Chun already was on suspension during the investigation — and began a search for a coach to lead its team into upcoming World Cup races in Canada in two weeks.

It also prepared to begin further disciplinary proceedings against Cho, Chun and Yeo, which could result in severe sanctions, including dismissal.

Officials offered no timetable for that process, though, and declined several times to answer questions in more detail, citing an arbitrator’s ruling that they not release the full investigation.

story continues below
story continues below

An arbitration is scheduled Nov. 1, if the case is not resolved by then.

"We are shocked and disappointed by Simon’s actions," federation spokeswoman Tamara Castellano said. "We do not, under any circumstance, support, condone or tolerate this kind of behavior."

Even Cho would agree.

He knew what he was doing was wrong, he said, but also felt he simply could not deny his coach — a fellow native Korean who brought the weight of their shared Asian culture to bear for an act of sabotage that could ruin both of their careers.

Three times, Chun asked him to vandalize the skates, Cho said — twice in English and in the presence of a teammate, and the third time in Korean, when Cho was alone.

"When he spoke in Korean, I knew that he was very serious," Cho said. "At this point, not only was he coming to me as my coach, but as my Korean elder. And in the Asian culture, when an elder asks you to do something, or makes a request, it’s very difficult to deny."

And Cho did not deny it.

Cho said Chun "was angry and believed that the Canadians aided another team in order for us to be eliminated" from the relay competition. He wanted the Canadians punished, Cho said.

"The repetitiveness and aggressiveness of how he came at me was very intimidating," Cho said. "I did feel threatened and intimidated."

The Americans and Canadians shared a locker room at the arena, Cho said, and it was common for equipment to be left unsecured. That made it easy for Cho to tamper with the skates, which belonged to skater Olivier Jean.

Jean was not able to skate the relay final, leaving his Canadian teammates a man short and unable to contend for gold. They finished third.

Next Page >

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.