US Speedskating suspends short track head coach

US Speedskating has suspended short track head coach Jae Su Chun after the coach sent a letter to media outlets Sunday morning in which Chun admits to having pushed an athlete but said he had “not abused athletes in any way.”

"In light of a statement released today by Jae Su Chun—along with the on-going investigation—the US Speedskating Board of Directors has voted today to place Mr. Chun on administrative leave," US Speedskating said in a Sunday afternoon statement.  "Mr. Chun will be on leave until the outcome of this investigation is complete."

Chun’s statement, in a letter translated from Korean before being sent to the Tribune, came in response to a code of conduct complaint filed against the coach with US Speedskating Friday by 13 athletes, including four 2010 Olympic medalists.

In the complaint, the athletes allege Chun engaged in physical and verbal abuse, intimidation, gender harassment and threats.

Speedskaters also filed a complaint to the U.S. Olympic Committee that contained the same allegations.

In his letter, Chun rejected allegations that he had “slammed an athlete up against a wall” and “repeatedly hit him” with enough force to cause injury.

“I did push him and we had a disagreement,” Chun said.  “Later I apologized to him. We resolved the conflict amicably and certainly he was not injured. In fact, he won several medals the next day at the World Championships.

“We continue to have a good relationship. I will add that although approached, he is not one of the athletes who have brought the complaint against me.”

Hyonmyong Cho, a spokesman for Chun, said he translated the letter for the coach, a native Korean who has been a U.S. short track coach since 2007.

A New York law firm, White & Case, is investigating the complaints on behalf of US Speedskating, whose board had a regularly scheduled meeting Saturday in Salt Lake City.

Edward Williams, an attorney for the athletes, said after attending the meeting that the board devoted “about 20 seconds” to discussing the complaint and a 50-page grievance alleging general mismanagement that athletes filed Aug. 30 against the federation.

(To see all the complaints and the grievance, please click here and refer to “Related Items.”)

"U.S. Speedskating takes this grievance very seriously and we intend to investigate each and every allegation," said Tamara Castellano, the federation's communications and marketing director, in a Friday statement.

In response to Chun’s letter, Williams said via telephone, “While he goes out of his way to deny the severity of the abuse, he in fact admits it.  In addition, he does not specifically deny any of the other many allegations of abuse.”

Chun also addressed an issue of inappropriate sexual conduct and providing alcohol to athletes under 21 contained in the grievance, even though the grievance had no statement that those allegations applied to him.

“A serious allegation in the main complaint against the US Speedskating organization is that of sexual misconduct,” Chun wrote.  “I and my fellow coaches have never behaved or said anything inappropriate in this regard.”

The complaint filed with the U.S. Olympic Committee asks that Chun and assistant coaches Jimmy Jang and Jun Hyung Yeo be barred from coaching or traveling with the 2012-13 U.S. World Cup short track team, to be selected later this month.

“As for the grievance directed to USS as an organization, the allegations relating to sexual discrimination, misconduct and alcohol do not pertain specifically to the three coaches but pertain to employees of U.S. Speedskating, including other coaches,” Williams said.

phersh@tribune.com

Twitter@olyphil

 

 

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