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U.S. skater admits tampering with Canadian's skate

By Gene Cherry

(Reuters) - A U.S. Olympic speedskater has admitted he sabotaged a Canadian rival's skate at last year's world team short-track championships but said he was following the orders of his coach.

Simon Cho made the admission on Friday, a week after allegations about the incident were made public in court documents filed in an arbitration case against his coach, Chun Jae-su.

"I am deeply embarrassed and sad to confirm certain allegations that have been made in the arbitration demand brought by a group of my fellow speed skaters against US Speedskating and the coaches," Cho said in a statement.

"A year and a half ago, at the World Team Championships in Warsaw, Poland, after the U.S. team was eliminated from competition, I tampered with a skate that belonged to a Canadian team skater after being pressured to do so by my coach Jae Su Chun."

The skate that Cho damaged belonged to Canada's Olivier Jean. He was unable to compete in the 5,000 metres relay final because the blade had been bent out of shape and Canada, with only three skaters instead of the permisssable four, finished last.

The United States Olympic Committee said it was appalled by the actions.

"The conduct at issue is repugnant and antithetical to the values of the Olympic Movement and inconsistent with Team USA's commitment to fair play," USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said in a statement.

"We regret that an American athlete was involved, and intend to actively engage with US Speedskating to ensure that appropriate action is taken."

The sabotage allegation was just one of a handful of incidents involving Chun that are being investigated by US Speedskating.

Nineteen skaters, including five Olympic medalists, filed a grievance complaint about Chun, claiming verbal, physical and psychological abuse.

The complaints include accusations that he once slammed a skater against a wall and that he repeatedly insulted female skaters by telling them they were "fat" and that he also forced other skaters to train while they were recovering from injuries.

Chun formerly coached the South Korean national team before being recruited by U.S. speedskating in 2007.

He has denied the accusations but has been placed in administrative leave by US Speedskating until the investigation is complete.

Cho said on Friday that he had apologized to Jean and rest of the Canadian team. Canadian officials have said they would comment on the issue while the investigation was taking place.

"It was the biggest mistake of my life and one that I regret with all my heart," Cho said. "I have great respect for Olivier and the Canadian team and have never held any bad feelings toward them."

Cho's attorney John Wunderli said his actions were out of character.

"What Simon did was wrong and he knows it," Wunderli said.

"But I hope people will understand that he did it under great pressure from his coach, he had nothing personally to gain from doing it, and it was an isolated incident completely inconsistent with who Simon is as a person."

(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Julian Linden)