Park Tae-Hwan “Shocked” By Positive Doping Test After Accepting “A Doctor’s Injection”

Park Tae-hwan [Photo: Patrick B. Kraemer]

Park Tae-Hwan, the 2008 Olympic 400m freestyle champion, is the latest big name in swimming to test positive for doping, the Yonhap News Agency reported via a statement from the swimmer’s management

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Park Tae-Hwan, the 2008 Olympic 400m freestyle champion, is the latest big name in swimming to test positive for doping, the Yonhap News Agency reported via a statement from the swimmer’s management


Cayley Guimarães

There is something very wrong with the way sports in general, and swimming in particular, handles Performance Enhancing Drugs.

Has it turned into a “police state”? Are athletes being harshly punished? Are the rules too strict? Has doping become systemic – and as such, here to stay? Are real cheaters actually being caught?

I say that because the reasons given for a failed drug test get increasingly “creative”: food, supplements, unintentional intake of over the counter medication, cross-contamination, among others.

It is a sad state of affair that an Olympic champion is in such dire straits that he is in want of a “free chiropractic treatment at a local hospital about two months prior to the Asian Games, and received a shot that led to the positive test.”

Craig Lord

It sounds extraordinary, Cayley … just how much so, we will only know when the full details emerge … each case has to be considered in its own right, so whether this case will be treated ‘harshly’ or lead to punishment is yet to be revealed, of course.

Mike Higgs

Its unfortunate that this has happened, Doctors should be reliable. The doctor was asked whether the injection contained any banned substances, It may well be necessary in the future to tape all conversations with medical staff administering a drug to protect the athlete.

I know from personal experience of the same injury. After a lot of physio I was given arches to my shoes(which were to flat. I was recommended to wear a high heeled trainer. This corrected the injury and 20 years on I do not have the problem

Craig Lord

We don’t know the precise details as yet but yes, I, too, had a problem similar to the one you describe just before leaving for the 1992 Olympics (media bench, of course 🙂 … I was given 1 steroid injection that cost £600 at the time (the GP’s treatment having failed to make a difference) and have had no trouble to this day. Of course, important to note that we don’t know as we write whether this is a steroid or something else. Ultimately, whatever this turns out to be, a banned substance made it into Park’s blood stream, and for that he is likely to be reprimanded to some extent, warning to much more, whoever else’s fault this may be.


Oh my God – another innocent athlete 🙂 No Rio for Park, or maybe he can serve a sentence like Sun Yang without anyone finding out – it would not be a surprise!

Craig Lord

Kim, your point about serving punishment in ‘secret’ is pertinent. Again, we can’t assume things because we simply don’t know the detail but the timing of events will be one to watch…

a 1960s swimmer

Athletes at Park’s level should know better. I do not think this was a medical emergency. I believe that Park should have gone to his private doctor who is well aware of illegal substances. Frankly I do not understand why an Olympic champion would be that ignorant. another victim!

Craig Lord

Certainly yet another warning to all athletes to take the utmost care with all things medical, injections etc… again, don’t know the details yet and what status this doctor had (and what trust that conveyed in Park when it came to him emphasising that it could not have banned substances in it… i.e.., you’d have to know and have faith in the fact that the doctor would know what constitutes a banned substance)… if such people are not sports doctors, people with knowledge of that world and knowledge of the swimmer, the swimmer should steer clear.


Why can’t athlete just understand that they should NEVER EVER NEVER EVER NEVER take any substance outside of the context of their own swimming federation !! If they are (sorry to say) stupid enough to take a risk and believe a dodgy doctor, then too bad for them, nobody can prove what he says so he needs a punishment !

I mean, is it sooooooo difficult to wait afew hours, consult your team doctor, and ask your federation if it’s allowedif your not sure ??

ps: I know some doctors in the chinese federation or others are dodgy as well =D but at least they should be “less” than the ones in the street I hope


Very odd that someone worth so much money (Park has a lot, and I mean a lot!) goes to a free doctor without consulting his own personal doctor…


Belgium_kangoo, You will never understand his situation in South Korea.He can’t take medical treatment of the national team.He could not find a swimming pool to train.So sad!

Jon Bjarnason

Matthew makes a good point.
I’ve met Park a few times, he has allways people with him, he is a superstar in Korea, there is no way he used a free clinic. A guy like this uses a specialist 100 out of a 100 times.

Why are we so afraid to say it?
What is going on here?
Our world class athletes seem to belong in a retirement home. All that medication they need… nope, not buying it.

Craig Lord

Jon, all points being made are good, as are your questions at the end. (In this particular case, we have a Yonyap agency report and some management quotes to go off, so a touch of caution required until the fuller details emerge, as far as reporting and media comment goes, including the length of time this has taken and where we might be in the process of the case).

Jon Bjarnason

True Craig, caution is needed.
I gues I’m just fed up with cases like this one.

“Park, is said to be in shock. “He hasn’t even taken cold medicine so that he wouldn’t fail doping tests,” Park’s management agency GMP told Yonhap.”

Ok, sounds fair.

But an “illegal injection administered by a local doctor” as part of a free chiropractic session sounds like a good idea?


Jon, Some of your opinion is fair, but park lost sponsors, and I very much doubt whether he has a personal doctor at that time. Yes, he is superstar in Korea ,but no major sponsors, and can’t get any help from swimming federation or national team.(this is crazy but true,you can google).We should wait and see more details.

Viva la Bang

This is ridiculous, What constitutes performance enhancing? By the nature of swimming and other sports, athletes do get injured, and should be allowed to take drugs for injuries, What is sport coming to?

Jon Bjarnason

What injuries?
Broken bones? In swimming?

If you over train, it’s YOUR problem, it’s not to be fixed with illegal injections. If you go there, you end up with the NFL.
You take it ez and wait for it to heal. Train smart, and stop cheating. It’s that ez.

Viva la Bang

Typical comment from somebody who knows nothing about swimming.


Lots of swimmers break bones for perfectly ordinary reasons. I remember Lindsay Benko having to pull out of the 2001 World Championships because she managed to break her kneecap when she jumped into a pool awkwardly during training camp and her knee hit a pool ledge.

And then there is Ryan Lochte’s seeming annual out of the pool injury caused by doing something that’s probably not the best idea.

Jon Bjarnason

True, I know nothing about swimming… just trolling.

A broken bone is an injurie, yes!
But all the excuses we have read have nothing to do with injuries, Hardy, Cielo, Effimova, Yang and now Park.. all world and/or olympic champs with many world records.

I have coached/helped olympic swimmers, world champs and even world record holders. Even though I know nothing about swimming, I know this, None of them need medication of this sort.

It’s the job of any good coach to make sure that swimmers are not overtrained. If you fail, you rest. Never fix it with drugs. If they need something for a cold, the know perfectly well what to stay away from… there is no news flash here, they all know it. This is how Park among other stars could stay “clean” from his Olympic gold in 2008 till now.

I would NEVER push someone in training who needed the medication that Sun Yang claims that he needs, you can guess what I think of his story. And this one does not impress me.

Btw, Just read this:
“As a practicing Chiropractor for 30+, former NCAA All-American Swimmer, Masters National Swimmer… I can tell you that ANY Injection by a Chiropractor is not legal… Medically or otherwise! Sounds like a bogus explanation to me.”

And they want us to believe that someone who is afraid of cold medicin, would accept this injection? Yeah right!


What is the drug he tested positive for?
Is it something that can be claimed under a TUE?
If it is a cortisone, then hundreds of athletes would have positive tests to their names – but they are cleared to use it under the TUE guidelines.
If this is a case of not filing his TUE, it’s not the doctor’s fault. It is Park and his management who would’ve failed/forgotten to fill out the appropriate TUE forms that would allow & explain the presence of an illegal substance in his system.
Either way this is beyond a rookie error, this is bad management and advise. A world class athlete shouldn’t be going to free clinics with medical practitioners he doesn’t know.

Craig Lord

Todd, quite so. We need to wait for fuller detail but it sounds like a mistake an experienced swimmer simply ought never to make – whether it was feet, back or similar, the circumstances sound unusual. Of course, as we write things like that, we need to be mindful of the intl federation at the helm of it all … and if you want an example of doing the wrong thing, getting it wrong, acting unprofessionally, failing to stick to rules, there they are. And now we get more walls of silence from the director who tells AFP “we’re meeting in late February”. If he really believes that to be acceptable, he should fall on his sword.

Craig Lord

Jon, I know you know about swimming and are not a troll 🙂 You highlight many of the concerns in a case that so far seems to suggest a high level of mistake/naivety. There are corticosteroid injections that might apply, depending on what we’re talking about – but those would have required a TUE and the only doctors the swimmer should have turned to would have known that.


Hey Viva la Bang, you might want to google Jón Bjarnason before you embarrass yourself any further. I think he might just know a bit about swimming 🙂


A few notes of caution. Have certain aspects or facts been misconstrued due to translation from Korean to English ? Case in point with chiropractor; certainly in Western countries chiropractors are “allied health professionals” NOT qualified medical doctors and are NOT licensed to perform cortisone “shots”.

ARE we making assumptions regarding the delivery of healthcare in South Korea based on our own experiences ? Perhaps the delivery of “primary” health care (our GPs/PCPs) are delivered via public clinics rather than doctors in private practice ?

IF this was all performed in a hospital setting then there should be one very clear means of verifying key facts. The standard practice for any treatment performed in a public hospital is that the patient will be provided with a discharge report when they leave.

Along with the reasons for admission/seeking treatment, it is a record of all tests/procedures that have been performed. The patient would normally hand this on to their normal doctor/provider. Even if this was in a “clinic” situation, there would be records which can be accessed under court order.


I used to swim for my country, and as far as the rules about doping are concerned, i thought whatever you put int your body was your solely your responsibility.

Every time I went to the doctor I would have my Doping booklet with the banned and allowed substances for that year.

We also had a website where we could reference any type of medicine in a few short seconds.

I understand that Park may have put his trust in the doctor, but surely one should realise that by giving someone else the ability to potentially give you something banned, you are taking responsibility for the chance that you might test positive.

This doesn’t seem like a hard concept to grasp. Yes quite possibly it was a mistake, and it was not malicious. This is not hard to imagine as he has been Olympic champion, and must have been tested many times in his life, but just because it is accidental, doesn’t mean that it deserves a slap on the wrist. Rules are set to be followed.

It is a shame because I really enjoy watching him swim. I hope that he has a fair trial though and a return to the water.


Ous Mellouli, Jessica Hardy, Mads Gleasner, Yulia Efimova, Sung Yang, Park Tae Hwan, Hundreds of russian swimmer, hundreds of brazilian swimmer… Who’s the next? All the big names have a little secret?

Craig Lord

Not a happy list the case file in swimming but fair to note that many of those cases are quite different in nature and circumstances, SubZero (and none of it suggests that “all big names” have a “secret” – swimming struggles with doping issues yet but I’m not of the view that “big name” must add up to the same).

Craig Lord

Thanks for noting your experience, Wez: it highlights that most ‘mistakes’ are made when education and procedures there to keep the athlete safe are overlooked (for whatever reason)

Craig Lord

commonwombat, you may well have a good point: in Britain, for example, all (barring those who opt to go private) treatment agreed by a GP and through referral to specialists, too, is free at the point of delivery though the National Health Service. We must wait to better understand the nature and status of the doctor cited but not yet named in the case.

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