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Ex-teammates of late triathlete set to come forward with more abuse allegations

All News 18:14 July 04, 2020

SEOUL, July 4 (Yonhap) -- Former teammates of a late triathlete who claimed to have endured years of abuse from team officials said Saturday they're ready to come forward with more allegations.

The recent suicide of Choi Suk-hyeon, who said she was abused by her coach and team physiotherapist on her semi-pro club, has sparked outrage across the nation, with prosecutors and national sports authorities investigating her allegations.

The late South Korean triathlete Choi Suk-hyeon receives a gold medal at the 2013 National Martime Sports Games in Ulsan, 400 kilometers southeast of Seoul, in these photos provided by Choi's surviving family on July 2, 2020. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Choi competed for Gyeongju City Hall in North Gyeongsang Province in 2017 and in 2019. During those stints, Choi claimed her coach, the team therapist and two of her older teammates struck her on multiple occasions. Other forms of abuses include ordering Choi to fast for three days after she'd failed to keep her weight down.

After Choi was found dead on June 26, her relatives and teammates started online petitions and took to social media to accuse Gyeongju triathlon officials of constant physical, verbal and emotional abuse.

And some of those Gyeonggju teammates said they will hold a press conference at the National Assembly next week. Rep. Lee Yong of the United Future Party, a former national bobsleigh team head coach, said he's trying to schedule one for Monday morning.

Choi had made audio recordings of occasions when she was abused, with the voices of the coach and the therapist clearly audible as they struck Choi and others.

One friend of Choi said, "There are athletes who saw firsthand Suk-hyeon get hit and who were also hit themselves. I hope more abuses that weren't recorded will come out and these abusers will be punished."

Choi had pleaded for help earlier this year, but her call had fallen on deaf ears. In February, she sought assault charges against the team officials, and local police forwarded the case to the prosecution in May with a recommendation for indictment. It was only after Choi's death that the Daegu District Public Prosecutors Office said it would soon summon alleged abusers for questioning.

In April, Choi also filed complaints with the Korea Triathlon Federation and the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee, seeking discipline for the accused. Neither organization took action.

The triathlon body is scheduled to open its disciplinary proceedings Monday. The sports ministry has assembled a special investigative team that will look further into Choi's allegations and to grill sports officials on why they failed to follow up on Choi's complaints in April.


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