Cuban Taekwondo Champ Faces Ban for Kicking Olympic Ref in Head

Former Olympic taekwondo champion Angel Valodia Matos may be banned from international competition for kicking a referee in the head yesterday after he was disqualified from his bronze-medal match in Beijing.

Matos, a 31-year-old Cuban, was declared the loser of his 80-kilogram (176-pound) bout because he took more than the allowed one minute of injury time. The 2000 gold medalist then went after Swedish referee Chakir Chelbat, first pushing him and then delivering a kick to Chelbat's face.

``It is an insult to Olympism, an insult to the spirit of taekwondo and an insult to mankind,'' Jin Suk Yang, the secretary general of the World Taekwondo Federation, said last night at a news conference. ``On behalf of taekwondo I express my regrets.''

The referee required stitches in his lip and the federation said it's looking into legal action against Matos. It has asked the International Olympic Committee to strip Matos of his fifth- place finish in Beijing and ban him from future competition.

Matos, who finished 11th at the Athens Games four years ago, spat on the floor after kicking Chelbat and had to be escorted from the gymnasium at Beijing Science and Technology University. Matos's opponent, Arman Chilmanov of Kazakhstan, said Matos had broken a toe on his left foot during the second round.

``To me it was obvious he was unable to continue,'' Chilmanov told reporters. ``My opponent did not behave in a sportsman-like manner.''

Also yesterday in the taekwondo competition, two-time gold medalist Chen Zhong was eliminated from a quarterfinal match after initially being declared the winner. It's the first time a match result has been overturned since taekwondo was included as an Olympic sport in 1990.

Sarah Stevenson of Britain was awarded the victory after officials reviewed video of the match following a protest and went on to receive a bronze medal. The Chinese team opted not to appeal the decision.

``We will overcome all difficulties,'' Jin said. ``We will show the world what the true taekwondo is at the end of the road.''

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