TODAY | October 06, 2012
>>> a new admission of unsportsmanlike conduct in u.s. speed skating . reigning national champion simon cho says he tampered with a rival's skate at last year's world championship . we'll talk to him exclusively in just a moment. but first, stephanie gosk has his story.
>> reporter: speed skaters have always lived life on the edge. now simon cho says he took it too far, breaking the rules of fair competition.
>> i tampered with a skate that belonged to a canadian team skater after being pressured to do so by his coach.
>> reporter: he says his coach put him up to it during the 2011 world championships , using their mutual korean heritage asthma n -- as manipulation.
>> in the asian culture , when another skz you to do something, it's very difficult to deny.
>> reporter: his lawyer says his client won't comment until after the hearing, but the u.s. speed skating federation says they cannot prove it was the coach's idea.
>> we do not believe there is sufficient evidence to conclude that the coach directed simon cho to tamp we are the skates.
>> reporter: the canadian star knew there was something wrong with his skates the first lap of the relay and was forced to withdraw. he used a bending machine to tamp we are the blades. any change of alignment at those speeds could have been extremely dangerous.
>> clearly they undermine the credibility of the sport. this is a tremendous black eye for u.s. speed skating .
>> reporter: cheating scandals regularly rock sports fans' faith. during the london games, a chinese badminton pair deliberately threw a match so their team could win more medals. some of the biggest names in baseball have been suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs. but what cho did will most likely trigger memories of the 1994 u.s. figure skating championships , when tonya harding paid her bodyguard to hurt fellow skater nancy kerrigan . it ended harding's career. as for cho, he's still waiting to hear what his punishment will be.
>> i actually called olivier jean personally last night to apologize.
>> reporter: the u.s. and canada face off in just two weeks in calgary. for "today," stephanie gosk, nbc news, new york.
>> simon cho and his lawyer join us for an exclusive interview. good morning to both of you.
>> good morning.
>> good morning.
>> thanks for being with us. simon , let me start with you. you had nothing to gain by doing this. the u.s. team had already been knocked out of the competition. so why did you do it?
>> well, the previous week, i had won my first world championship title, so i had nothing to gain from this, but my coach was adamant that i do this for him.
>> and why was that? you had mentioned in early reports you felt you were singled out because of your heritage, because you were korean, you were both korean, you and your coach?
>> yes, that played a big role. our cultural background. but our coach say su believed that the canadians fixed a race, which eliminated us and he was very disappointed and bitter about that.
>> we mentioned earlier, your coach denies telling you to tamper with the skates. do you have any proof? are there any witnesses to back up your claim? did anyone hear your coach ask you to do this?
>> when he initially asked me, he asked me in english and i was with my teammate jeff simon at the time.
>> and jeff heard him say this?
>> let me ask you this. your coach -- you say your coach pressured you. you were the one who actually went out and did this. do you feel like you actually shoulder the blame for what happened?
>> well, at the end of the day , you know, i carried out this action, so i had to take a proper responsibility for this action, which is why i decided to come forward and tell the truth about everything. but the whole time i knew it was wrong, and i felt like i was going against my will.
>> john, let me bring you in here. the u.s. speed skating announced it's convening a disciplinary panel about what to do with simon 's claim here. the winter olympics are about a year and a half out. will he be able to compete in those games?
>> that's a very good question. my main point at this point is that there not be an unfair rush to make an example out of simon . the reason i say that is because this incident came out in the context of numerous complaints against u.s. speed skating and its coaches, but u.s. speed skating has issued a statement strongly condemning simon and minimizing all the other complaints, so i am hopeful that simon is not going to be thrown under the bus here, so to speak, and that we would have an opportunity to demonstrate that he, in fact -- what he did was wrong, clearly, but that he did it at the direction of his coach and that there is no way he would have done this independently, because he had nothing to gain from doing it and gained nothing from doing it.
>> all right. well, simon cho and john wanderly, we thank you both for being with us this morning.