Park Tae-hwan’s ongoing battle to represent South Korea at the Rio 2016 has received a boost after a local court ruled he should be eligible to compete at the upcoming Olympic Games.
The 26-year-old, winner of the Olympic gold medal in the 400 metres freestyle at Beijing 2008, is contesting a controversial Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) ruling which forbids athletes from representing any national team for three-years after a doping suspension.
Park was banned in 2014 after testing positive for the anabolic steroid testosterone and served an 18-month suspension from the sport.
In a move which could begin the path to redemption for the South Korean star, the Seoul Eastern District Court agreed that the KOC had no reason to ban him from competing at Rio 2016.
“[Park] has no reason for being disqualified based on Article 5 of the Korea Swimming Federation's rule on the selection of national team swimmers,” the court ruling said according to the Yonhap News agency.
The decision of the court comes ahead of a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) verdict on the case, which is due to be delivered at some point next week.
A cut-off date of July 8 has been cited for a final decision.
It comes after Park, a two-time world champion who also claimed two silver medals at London 2012, sought an “urgent” ruling from the CAS as he continues his pursuit of a place on the South Korean team at next month’s Games.
His fate was placed in the hands of the CAS in June when the KOC rejected his appeal and refused to waive their ruling.
Park filed an appeal against the KOC’s regulation, which effectively ruled him out of the Olympics, in April, but then asked for the arbitration proceedings to be temporarily halted so he could seek further talks with the KOC.
He hoped he would be able to get his Rio 2016 ban overturned without pursuing further legal avenues but the CAS now appear to be his only hope of success.
Park had put further pressure on the KOC in April after he won the 100 metres, 200m, 400m and 1,500m freestyle races at the South Korean Olympic Trials, while he also managed to achieve the Olympic ‘A’ standards set by the International Swimming Federation.
The South Korean has been enveloped in a training programme despite repeatedly being told he won’t be selected and stepped up his preparations with a fourth-place finish in the 200 metres freestyle race at the Brisbane Grand Prix yesterday.