South Korean skater faces 1-year ban over alleged assault

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s skating body has decided to ban two-time Olympic speed skating champion Lee Seung-hoon for a year over allegations that he assaulted two teammates during several international competitions.

An official from the Korea Skating Union said Wednesday that Lee has denied the accusations and will likely appeal to South Korea’s Olympic Committee by next Monday’s deadline.

The official from the skating union says it gathered third-person accounts and other evidence before its governing committee concluded that Lee abused the two unidentified teammates at hotels and restaurants while they competed in international events in 2011, 2013 and 2016. The official did not want to be named, citing office rules.

Lee won gold medals at the men’s 10,000 meters race at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and at the mass start event of last year’s Pyeongchang Games in South Korea. Lee’s corporate team, Korean Air, and his agency, Bravo And New, had no immediate comment on the case.

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The accusations against Lee first emerged last May when South Korea’s Sports Ministry launched an investigation into the skating union following some high-profile abuse cases involving its athletes and coaches, which tarnished the reputation of the sport that gained popularity over two decades of Olympic success.

Former national team coach Cho Jae-beom is now serving an 18-month prison term after being convicted of assaulting two-time Olympic short-track speedskating champion Shim Suk-hee. He was also indicted last month on separate charges of raping Shim.

South Korea earlier this year launched a wider probe covering 50 sports and including children competing for elementary, middle and high schools, to investigate deep-rooted problems over what critics described as a brutal training culture and highly hierarchical relationships between coaches and athletes.

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