Park must apologise for doping: Korea fed chief
SEOUL - Agence France-Presse
A picture taken on September 26, 2014 shows South Korea's Park Tae-hwan at the end of the fast heat (final 2) of the men's 1500m freestyle swimming event during the 17th Asian Games at the Munhak Park Tae-hwan Aquatics Centre in Incheon. AFP PhotoDisgraced 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 March 25.
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.
Park's agency issued a brief apology on his behalf Tuesday.
The 25-year-old swimmer, known as "Marine Boy" in South Korea, tested positive for a banned anabolic steroid at an out-of-competition control before the Asian Games on September 3 last year.
All Park's results after September 3, 2014, have been cancelled which means handing back the three bronze medals he won at last year's Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
The positive test sent shock waves through the sport in South Korea where prosecutors last month announced charges against a doctor for giving Park an injection without disclosing it contained the banned steroid testosterone.
Park blamed the injection -- administered last July -- for the positive drug test on urine samples he provided in September.
In an editorial Wednesday, South Korea's largest circulation daily, the Chosun Ilbo, said the country was torn over the fate of its first Olympic swimming medallist.
"People feel uncomfortable with the idea of ending Park's life as a sportsman," the newspaper said.
"But then, we may see a downgrade in our reputation abroad if we resort to an expedient to send him to the Rio Olympics," it added.
Park -- who has six Asian Games titles to his name -- won 400m freestyle gold and 200m freestyle silver at the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
He also won silver in both events at the 2012 London Olympics, along with 400m gold in the world championships in 2007 and 2011.