2:51 PM EDT, October 1, 2012
The trials are over.
The tribulations are not.
U.S. Speedskating named its 10 qualifiers for the fall short track World Cup team based on results of the selection trials competition that ended Sunday in Salt Lake City.
Six of the 10 were signees to the Sept. 11 complaint filed with the U.S. Olympic Committee against national team coach Jae Su Chun, suspended Sept. 16 pending results of an investigation into allegations he had verbal and physically abused skaters.
Three of the 10 had issued as statement of support for Chun, who got a four-year contact extension Sept. 24, 2009.
One has not taken sides publicly.
And the skater at the center of the most explosive allegation against Chun, 2011 world champion Simon Cho, did not make the team.
An arbitration filing alleges Cho admits he followed the coach’s orders to tamper with the skates of a Canadian skater, Olivier Jean, at the 2011 World Team Championships. When that allegation became public last week, Jean said he had always suspected sabotage was behind the broken skate blade that caused him to drop out in the relay, costing bronze medalist Canada a shot at the gold or silver.
Cho told reporters Sunday he expected to be penalized as a result of the tampering allegation, either with a suspension or a ban.
“I don’t expect to get out of this situation without any damage,” Cho said, in what pretty much sounded like an admission of guilt.
And where do things stand for the rest of the skaters and the coaches?
Each of the 10 who made the team has a "soft" deadline (more on that later) of Sunday to decide whether to accept the spot.
One of the complainants, Jeff Simon, told the Salt Lake Tribune he would turn it down if Chun and his assistant, Jun Hyung Yeo –also the subject of abuse allegations and interim head coach since Chun’s suspension - remained national team coaches.
Another complainant, 2010 Olympic bronze medalist J.R. Celski, said he would join the World Cup team no matter what.
Others either declined to address the issue or said they would wait to decide.
Those waiting undoubtedly hope the investigators, from New York-based law firm White & Case, will issue a report recommending the coaches be dismissed. White & Case is working pro bono under the aegis of the USOC’s Safe Training Program.
“White & Case is making every effort to get its report out this week,” USS spokesperson Tamara Castellano said Monday.
Cho's attorney, John Wonderli, said the skater had cooperated with the investigation.
If the White & Case report does not call for the dismissal of Chun and Yeo, there will be an arbitration hearing (under USOC grievance provisions) Oct. 8.
US Speedskating has told the athletes it will allow them to wait for the outcome of the investigative and arbitration proceedings before making a final decision on whether to join the World Cup team.
The “hard” deadline is Oct. 19 – the start of the first of three fall World Cups.
All the complainants already have left the national team – called the National Racing Project – to join the FAST program. Both groups train at the 2002 Olympic Oval in Kearns, Utah.
As I noted last week, the tribulations could be long-lasting divisiveness, as skaters who have taken strong stands on opposite sides of the issue likely will be racing together both this season and next – the Olympic year.
Smith, who won five of eight races and the overall title in a runaway at the trials, told the Salt Lake Tribune she would be upset if Chun and Yeo were forced to leave. Simon, who filed a police complaint against Chun, is in the opposite situation.
Resolving the status of the coaches hardly will end US Speedskating’s problems. The federation is $350,000 in debt and must answer a grievance in which 19 athletes charged it with various forms of mismanagement, including tax fraud.
Stephen Colbert helped bail the federation out of a financial mess before the 2010 Olympics.
This time, it may need someone to post bail.
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