Selection trials end, but skate tribulations continue

Report on investigation of U.S. short track coaches expected this week

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Simon Cho at the 2012 World Championships.  (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Simon Cho at the 2012 World Championships. (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images / March 9, 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.

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