SEOUL/LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Park Tae-hwan, a four-time Olympic swimming medalist, has been suspended for 18 months for an anti-doping violation, officials in Switzerland announced on Monday (local time).
The ruling came merely hours after FINA, the international swimming governing body, held a doping hearing with Park in attendance in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Park, a four-time Olympic medalist and two-time world champion in freestyle, had tested positive for testosterone, a substance banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), after submitting two urine samples to FINA on Sept. 3.
Park has 21 days to appeal the doping panel’s decision with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Following the disclosure of his positive test in January, Park argued that a Seoul-based doctor had given him an injection in July without fully disclosing that it could contain a banned substance.
In February, prosecutors indicted the doctor on charges of professional negligence, on the grounds that he didn’t disclose the name, ingredients or side effects of the shot administered despite Park’s questions.
On its website, FINA said the suspension will begin retroactively on Sept. 3 and will conclude on March 2, 2016. Park is a first-time offender.
FINA also said Park will be stripped of all medals earned on or after Sept. 3. Competing at an arena bearing his own name, Park won one silver and five bronze medals at last year’s Incheon Asian Games, which took place after the samples were collected. Three of his bronze medals came in relay events, and Park’s teammates in those races will also lose their medals with Park’s suspension.
While his suspension will end before the start of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, it remains unclear whether Park, the first and only South Korean with an Olympic swimming medal, will be able to compete in his fourth Summer Games.
Under a rule instituted last July by the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC), an athlete who has been suspended for a positive drug test may not be named to a national team for three years, starting from the day the suspension ends.
Earlier on Monday in Lausanne, Park attended the doping hearing with officials from the Korea Swimming Federation (KSF) and the KOC. Afterward, Lee Kee-heung, head of the KSF, said he expected FINA’s ruling “in two to three days” and said Park had clearly stated his case to the doping panel.
The hearing had originally been scheduled for Feb. 27 but FINA granted Park’s wish to delay the occasion so he could be better prepared to build his case.