Speedskate case conundrum: Simon says, Simon doesn't

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Jeff Simon at the 2009 U.S. Championships (Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)

Jeff Simon at the 2009 U.S. Championships (Matthew Stockman / Getty Images / December 25, 2012)

That means the investigators let the coaches skate on the abuse charges by essentially saying there was a lot of smoke, but no fire.

They noted Chun was an “intense and demanding coach. . .(who) can be abrasive. . .and frequently does not communicate effectively.”   They went only so far as to say, ``The allegations against coach Chun are troubling.”

Could all the complainants all have sat down and conspired to take out their dislike for Chun’s methods and frustration with US Speedskating’s leadership by banding together against the coach?  That is another question for which there is no answer, even if such a scenario seems unlikely.

White & Case became involved in this situation after agreeing to do pro bono work under the aegis of the USOC’s new “Safe Sport” program.  The documentation for that program makes it clear that many of the allegations against Chun constitute “emotional misconduct.”

It turns out, according to a Monday story by Howard Berkes of National Public Radio, that an email the investigators used to defuse the strongest charge of physical abuse was misattributed.

It was alleged that Chun threw Ryan Leveille against a wall at a 2008 meet in Harbin, China.  The investigators said Leveille had sent an email to Chun saying the contact had been exaggerated in the allegation and effusively praising the coach.

Leveille told NPR he had never sent such an email and that the "inappropriate incident did occur."  Greg Little of White & Case acknowledged to NPR that another skater had sent the email but contended the error of attribution did not affect the conclusions of the report.

Yet it leaves the impression that White & Case produced a slapdash report that made the case for a rush to judgment.

As the investigators said, the Korean-born US coaches have both strong supporters and strong detractors.  That has divided the US short track athletes, leading many skaters to leave the national racing program run by Chun and Yeo.  Whatever happens to those two coaches, some skaters will be upset.

US Speedskating has suspended Chun and Yeo pending the results of its disciplinary process.  It announced Monday that Stephen Gough and Pat Wentland will take over coaching the national racing program skaters at upcoming World Cups and that Tony Goskowicz will coach those in the national racing program who did not make the fall World Cup team.

Even if the USOC Coaching Ethics Code – which US Speedskating uses – does not specifically address the issue of failure to report an ethical violation, it has enough general language about coaches’ ethical responsibilities to justify dismissing Chun and Yeo.

Such a decision seems the best way for the federation to move forward.  Then it can start dealing with its budget problems and an eventual hearing into charges of general mismanagement and false federal tax filings contained in a lengthy grievance filed by 19 skaters.



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