Speedskaters accuse coach of abuse
SALT LAKE CITY (AP)
Five Olympic medalists and other current and former members of the U.S. speedskating team filed complaints accusing head coach Jae Su Chun of “unchecked” verbal, physical and psychological abuse.
Nineteen athletes filed a wide-ranging grievance against U.S. Speedskating and 14 signed a complaint with the U.S. Olympic Committee. The Chicago Tribune and Salt Lake Tribune reported on the accusations.
Attorney Edward Williams, who represents the skaters, said the abuse was “outrageous.”
The code of conduct complaint accuses Chun of slamming an athlete against a wall and repeatedly hitting him, throwing bottles and chairs at skaters, and repeatedly telling female skaters they were “fat” and “disgusting.”
The complaint also accused Chun of telling U.S. team members to be “obnoxious” to Canadian rivals at the 2011 World Team Championships.
Williams said current national team members are boycotting U.S. Speedskating rather than have any contact with Chun and two assistants.
He urged the USOC to take urgent action because fall World Cup teams will be selected at the U.S. Single Distance Championships Sept. 27-30 in Kearns, Utah.
“My clients (the athletes) are being faced with the choice of again skating under and for a known abusive coach or ending their racing career,” Williams wrote in his letter to the CEO of the USOC on Sept. 11.
A USOC spokesman on Friday said the organization is investigating. U.S. Speedskating also posted a statement on its website indicating it is working with an independent law firm to investigate.
“U.S. Speedskating takes this grievance very seriously and we intend to investigate each and every allegation,” the statement said. “Our goal is — and always has been — to provide our athletes with the best possible training and staff support so they can continue to compete on a world-class level.”
Current skaters making the allegations include 2010 Winter Olympic medalists Allison Baver, J.R. Celski, Alyson Dudek, Travis Jayner and Jordan Malone.
U.S. Speedskating had its fall board of directors meeting Saturday in Kearns but spokeswoman Tamara Castellano said the matter wasn’t discussed beyond reading the statement posted on its website.
The initial grievance signed by 19 skaters on Aug. 30 alleged longstanding problems — from federation governance and finances to administrative structure. It even claimed the federation cheated on its taxes.
But the most serious allegations were those against Chun, as well as assistants Jun Hyung Yeo and Jimmy Jang. The Salt Lake Tribune said Jang is a former U.S. Speedskating developmental coach of the year who was fired as the Russian head coach last year because of “cruel training methods.”
Chun, the former head coach of the South Korea national team, was hired in 2007. He was credited with improving the U.S. team before the Vancouver Games, where American short track skaters led by Apolo Anton Ohno and Katherine Reutter won six medals.
Neither Ohno nor Reutter signed the complaints.
Skater Levi Kirkpatrick separately accused U.S. Speedskating executive director Mark Greenwald of “code of conduct” violations for threatening Kirkpatrick and failing to properly manage the program.