Disgraced South Korean swim star Park Tae-Hwan needs to apologise before any discussion can begin on when he might return to competition after failing a doping test, the head of the national swim federation said Wednesday.
The 18-month suspension handed down to Park by world swimming body FINA on Monday sparked debate at home over whether the four-time Olympic swimming medallist should be allowed to take part in next year’s Olympics in Rio.
The FINA ban ends in March 2016, which theoretically gives Park time to prepare for the Olympics, but a new rule instituted by the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) last year could see him miss the Rio event.
The rule bars any athlete suspended for doping from competing with the national team for three years. In Park’s case, that would bar him until March 2019 — by which time the 25-year-old would be past his best.
KOC officials have suggested there might be room for “flexibility” in enforcing the regulation.
But Lee Kee-Heung, head of the Korea Swimming Federation, said the issue of reinstating Park, a national icon in South Korea, could be discussed only after the swimmer made a full, public apology.
“First and foremost, Park Tae-Hwan should apologise to the people that he’s let down and plead for their forgiveness, and take time to reflect on himself,” Lee told reporters as he returned home after attending FINA’s hearing in Switzerland.