S. Korean swim star Park Tae-Hwan Park hopes to compete in Rio

Seoul (AFP) –


Disgraced South Korean swim star Park Tae-Hwan said Tuesday he was still hopeful of competing in the Rio Olympics, amid signs his national Olympic committee might be reconsidering an extended ban for doping.

The multiple Olympic medallist completed an 18-month drug ban last month after testing positive for a banned anabolic steroid in out-of-competition controls before the 2014 Asian Games.

But he remains barred from competing in the Rio Games under a rule of the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) that bans athletes from representing the country for three years after the expiration of any doping ban.

"I believe things will work out fine," Park told Yonhap News TV.

"I hope something good will happen so that I can compete at the Olympics," he added.

Park has begged for a chance to compete in what would be his third Olympics -- at one point getting down on his hands and knees during a press conference.

The KOC has stood firm, although its chief Kim Jung-Haeng on Tuesday appeared to offer a small ray of hope.

"I used to be an athlete myself so, in my purely personal opinion, I think it would be good if Park can compete in the Olympics," Kim told reporters.

"Doping is a serious evil that should be rooted out, but polls show more than 70 percent of South Koreans want Park to compete in the Games," he said.

Park, who previously filed an appeal for arbitration at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, is set to meet KOC officials next week.

The 26-year-old was once the poster-boy of South Korean swimming -- courted by advertisers and idolised by fans.

He won 400m freestyle gold and 200m freestyle silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and two silver medals at the 2012 London Olympics, as well as 400m world titles in 2007 and 2011.

On his competitive return to the pool last month, he easily won the 100m, 200m, 400m and 1,500m freestyle events at the 88th Dong-A meet, which doubles as a national trial.

His positive doping test was only revealed in January last year, and was initially blamed by Park's management team on the incompetence of a doctor at the hospital where the swimmer was receiving treatment.