Sports

Olympic Champion Lopez Has Life Ban Overturned

Double Olympic champion Steven Lopez has had his life ban overturned on appeal by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

He and his brother, Jean, were banned by the United States’ Center for SafeSport.  But the brothers have now had their bans lifted having challenged the ruling.

The brothers’ suspensions were originally lifted on appeal, but World Taekwondo, the sport’s world governing body, kept them in place.  However, having unsuccessfully challenging WT’s decision, the Lopez brothers appealed to CAS in June 2022.

A CAS panel found that WT charged the brothers based on its 2011 code of ethics.

However, because the incidents for which they were charged took place before 2011, they deemed this code could not be used.

At a CAS hearing, WT submitted a 2008 code of ethics for the first time, but the panel considered this to be “inadmissibly, and impermissibly, late”, and said insufficient evidence was provided to prove this edition of the code of ethics was published or made available to athletes.

In upholding the Lopez brothers’ appeal, CAS said in a statement: “In application of the fundamental legal principle that one cannot be punished for doing something that is not prohibited by law, and in the absence of any relevant applicable disciplinary or ethics rules implemented or published by WT at the time of the alleged violations, the CAS Panel was not in a position to sanction the appellants, even if the Panel was to assume that they had committed an infraction.”

The Lopez brothers were named in a lawsuit filed in 2018 by four female taekwondo athletes who claim to have suffered “two decades of sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking by the entities, officials, coaches and mentors who were entrusted to protect them”.

Both brothers have always denied all allegations against them.  Lopez, 44, won -68kg and -80kg gold at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games respectively, and is a five-time world champion.

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