Park Tae-hwan’s hopes of competing at Rio 2016 now rest with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) rejected the swimmer’s final appeal to allow him to be a part of their team for this year’s Games.
Park, winner of the Olympic gold medal in the 400 metres freestyle at Beijing 2008, is contesting a controversial KOC ruling which forbids athletes from representing any national team for three-years after a doping suspension.
He was banned in 2014 after testing positive for the anabolic steroid testosterone and served an 18-month suspension from the sport.
The 26-year-old 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 as the KOC stressed the rule would remain in place.
“The regulation for the selection of national team representatives was made with the aim of demanding a high level of morality of our national team athletes and considering the dignity required of a public figure," a KOC statement, carried on South Korean television, read.
"Doping is against the fair play spirit, a basic requirement of athletes, and we decided that a rigorous response was needed for educational purposes to young athletes."
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.
His campaign to be allowed to represent his nation in Rio de Janeiro had seemingly received a boost the following month when KOC President Kim Jung-haeng claimed he thought Park should be sent to the Games.
“To give you my personal opinion, I think it'd be great if Park Tae-hwan could go to the Olympics,” he said.
The KOC rule was introduced in 2014 following a Court of Arbitration for Sport decision in 2011 which ruled that the now-defunct Osaka Rule - which banned athletes convicted of serious doping offences from competing in the next Olympic Games - was "a violation of the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) own Statute and is therefore invalid and unenforceable”.
The Osaka Rule was originally implemented by the IOC in 2008.
Those who have been critical of the KOC have pointed to the CAS ruling as an example that the regulation should no longer be in existence.