Justin Sukwon Park was banned for two years last month ©Asia Triathlon

World Triathlon have confirmed sanctions have been placed on four Korea Triathlon Federation (KTF) officials over failures in the case of Choi Suk-hyeon, who committed suicide in 2020 after physical and verbal abuse by her coach and teammates.

Asia Triathlon President Justin Sukwon Park was confirmed to have been given a two-year sanction earlier this month.

The World Triathlon Tribunal ruled on February 8 that he had failed to ensure that the KTF immediately informed lead welfare officers at the governing body of any reported cases of harassment and abuse to happen in its federation, in accordance to the safeguarding policy.

Park was also found to have failed to ensure that the personal rights of individuals were protected, respected, and safeguarded.

World Triathlon said Park had been suspended as a World Triathlon Executive Board member after the Tribunal decision, while he resigned as Asia Triathlon President on February 8.

KFT secretary general Lee Jae-Keun, business operations manager Ki Woo-Kyong and deputy secretary general Jeon Yonghu have also been suspended for 18 months from February 8.

The officials were found to have violated articles in the World Triathlon Code of Ethics.

Choi, a bronze medallist in the junior event at the 2015 Asian Triathlon Championships, took her own life at the age of 22 in June 2020.

Kim Kyu-bong, who coached at the Gyeongju City Hall triathlon club, was sentenced in January last year to seven years in prison for the physical abuse of Choi.

Team captain Jang Yun-jung, who took mixed relay silver at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, was jailed for four years and team mate Kim Do-hwan was given a suspended prison sentence of 18 months for physical and verbal abuse of Choi.

Ahn Joo-hyeon, a former team physical therapist, was sentenced to eight years in prison and fined KRW 10 million (£6,200/$8,200/€7,500) for sexually and physically assaulting Choi.

Coach Kim and Jang had been banned for life and Kim Do-hwan suspended for 10 years by the KTF following investigations by the Korean Sports and Olympic Committee Clean Sports Center (KSOC CSC).

South Korean triathlete Choi Suk-hyeon took her own life in 2020 ©ITU
South Korean triathlete Choi Suk-hyeon took her own life in 2020 ©ITU

The World Triathlon Tribunal had said KTF officials Lee and Ki had been made aware on February 12 in 2020 that Choi’s father had filed a report with both the Gyeongju City Hall and the Gyeongju police against coach Kim.

The reports documented years of physical assaults, and verbal and psychological abuse suffered by Choi at the hands of coach Kim, two senior teammates and the team’s physical therapist.

After receiving the reports, Lee and Ki both called for an investigation into the matter with the former contacting coach Kim who denied the allegations.

The panel found that no attempt had been made to contact Choi either to confirm the claims or find out about her well-being or provide support.

Park, who was KTF President at the time, argued he was informed at the time that no further action should be taken by the national body after Gyeongju police launched a criminal investigation into coach Kim’s conduct.

Choi filed a complaint containing detailed allegations of harassment and abuse with the KSOC CSC in April 2020 before Lee and Ki met with officials from the organisation to discuss how the case should be investigated.

The KSOC CSC and KTF investigation was hit by delays with Park citing COVID-19 and lack of co-operation by the alleged offenders as the reason for the slow progress.

According to the Sports Ministry Findings, KTF Sports Fairness Committee chair Young Ju Ahn said the matter could be dealt with by the National Federation after Choi launched a petition, demanding the organisation take disciplinary action.

It was found that KTF deputy secretary general Jeon Yong-hu recommended that the organisation should not take independent action but refer Choi’s petition back to the KSOC CSC.

Park resigned as President of the KTF and Executive Board member of the KSOC after Choi’s death.

He remained as head of the Asia Triathlon and a World Triathlon Executive Board member until the two-year sanction was imposed last month.