Thursday, July 29, 2004

Isle coach sues over
Olympic team role

The lawsuit fights his ouster
as U.S. coach for tae kwon do

A local tae kwon do master who was named head coach for the U.S. Olympic team last year is challenging his removal as discriminatory.

Dae Sung Lee: He claims racial prejudice and seeks damages of at least $1 million

Dae Sung Lee, founder and master teacher at the United States Taekwondo Center in Aina Haina, filed suit yesterday in U.S. District Court against the U.S. Taekwondo Union and U.S. Olympic Committee, alleging breach of contract and civil rights violations.

The Olympic Committee and U.S. Taekwondo Union, based in Colorado Springs, Colo., could not be reached for comment.

Lee claimed in the suit that he was removed because he is Korean-American and because he had a good relationship with the union's former governing body, made up largely of Korean Americans.

He alleged that the coach selection criteria were improperly changed to exclude him from being nominated as head coach, despite his qualifications. Lee has successfully competed nationally and internationally and has served as national and international coach for the U.S. team, the suit said.

Lee was approved as head coach in March 2003 by the union, which sent him to Athens, Greece, for a site visit the following month. Since then, Lee has been preparing himself and the U.S. team for competition, including attending tae kwon do competitions leading up to the Olympics, the suit said. The U.S. Olympic Committee confirmed his nomination in October.

In August the U.S. Olympic Committee had accused the union of financial mismanagement and alleged that its leaders "had allegiance to Korea to the detriment of U.S. programs and the interests of U.S. athletes," the suit said.

The Olympic committee allegedly threatened to decertify the union as the national governing body for tae kwon do, discontinue funding and ban further use of Olympic training facilities unless the union's executives and appointed state heads resigned, according to the suit.

With no resources to fight the claims and for fear of losing certification, the union's leadership resigned in February as part of a settlement. The Olympic committee appointed a new governing body.

Lee was not named in any misconduct by the union or asked to resign.

But he said he was notified by letter July 21 -- just three weeks before the Olympic Games begin in Athens -- that another, allegedly less qualified candidate had been selected as head coach by the new governing body. The new management had re-evaluated the coach selection criteria and recommended to the Olympic committee that Lee be replaced.

Lee asks that the court order the U.S. Olympic Committee and U.S. Taekwondo Union to reinstate him as head coach or as one of two coaches for the U.S. tae kwon do team and to declare that the new coach selection criteria and appointment of a new governing body was invalid. He also seeks damages, including $1 million in punitive damages.

Athens 2004 Olympics

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