The WTF replies to LaJust??s inquiry
– The decision on the Olympic PSS was the start of a conflict between the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) and the PSS company LaJust, a conflict that only grew after the latter took legal action against the WTF. On August 8th, LaJust sent through Taekwondo newspapers a public inquiry to the WTF. In order to deal with this issue with transparency, the WTF has also made the answers public. The questions and answers are published below. [WTM]
[LaJust Question 1]
The decision of the equipment for the Olympics is treated in the Recognition Contract as follows: “WTF recommends only “EIDSS Protector” for Olympic Games for the term of this agreement”. The duration of the contract is of 5 years from the 11th of September 2006, that is, until September 2011. The duration of the contract is mentioned separately from the 18th of May 2007 through the 17th of May 2012. This was to take into account that the decision on the equipment for the Olympics was going to be done one year before (December 2011), and thus to guarantee its use in the Olympics. Why, then, has the WTF broken the promise?
Claiming that the reason the term of the contract is set at a different date (18th May 2007) than the signature of the contract (11th September 2006), was to guarantee the use in the London Olympics has no foundation. The term of the contract was set from the 18th of May 2007 because the World Taekwondo Championships were being held in Beijing starting from the same date, and it was the WTF’s plan to use the PSS at the World Championships and decided to set the validity of the contract on the opening day of the World Championships. This was agreed between the two parties and it is mentioned in the 5th clause of the contract signed with LaJust on the 11th of September 2006.
Furthermore, the claim that the WTF has breached the agreement is false, and according to the contract, the WTF “recommended” only LaJust’s PSS to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG). However, in February and March 2011, fatal technical errors in the LaJust PSS during the National Qualifiers led to a re-evaluation of the PSS and a deferment of the recommendation. All of the above have been recognized and acknowledged by LaJust previously. The contract does not mention any kind of obligation of the WTF to “guarantee the use” of LaJust’s PSS – the only obligation the WTF had was the “recommendation”, which was duly fulfilled.
[LaJust Question 2]
In a letter sent to the MNA’s, the WTF said: “Equipment suppliers for Olympic Games are nominated by the Organizing Committee from among IF-recognized companies, as stipulated by the rules of the IOC for the Olympic Games.” However, in the Olympic Technical Manual, it says “The IF may nominate several suppliers from which the OCOG must ultimately select one.” These are two very different statements. Why was the content of the announcement different from the Olympic Technical Manual?
As it is mentioned in the Technical Manual of the IOC, the International Federation can “provide the list of Recognized products”, “designate several Recognized products” or “notify one Recognized company”. When there is not only one Recognized company, the Organising Committe has the right to decide between the companies on the list. The WTF provided the LOCOG the list of the approved companies and “recommended” only LaJust, but the decision was still to be made by the LOCOG. In the announcement sent to the MNA’s it can be clearly seen that the WTF followed the rules as it read that “Daedo was the chosen company from the list provided by the WTF”.
[LaJust Question 3]
If the WTF had only recommended LaJust, the LOCOG should have just decided to use LaJust. Otherwise, does it mean the WTF nominated both recognized companies (LaJust and Daedo), breaching the contract?
There is no reason why the LOCOG ought to choose only LaJust unless it is the only Recognized company. LaJust is not the only recognized company. The WTF never said so and there is no contractual obligation to do so. The WTF has never “designated” one of the two recognized companies, LaJust or Daedo, it just provided the list of Recognized companies to the LOCOG, recommending only one of them, LaJust (3rd December 2010). Such “recommendation” was deferred due to technical issues (1st April 2011), and the reason for the deferment was the technical error caused by LaJust.
[LaJust Question 4] The WTF is an organization with a more specialized knowledge about the PSS, and the Recognition process for the companies included a test at the Korea Institute of Sports Sciences (KISS). Also, when Swiss Timing compared both products, it excluded the most important aspect which is the PSS’s inherent function assessment and evaluated only the system compatibility with theirs, which is not at all objective, according to the court. Then,
1)Why did WTF recommend LaJust to the LOCOG? Was it just because of the contract?
The WTF decided to recommend only LaJust following the PSS Ad-hoc Committee’s advice. In the report presented by the Ad-hoc Committee, all strong and weak points of both LaJust and Daedo PSS were stated, indicating that the systems needed to be improved. Along with the report was their recommendation of LaJust. The evaluation made in 2010 was focused mainly on the functionality of the PSS and there was not an important perception of the influence the wireless technology could have on the overall functionality. LaJust was recommended even though it was perceived to have more technical flaws than Daedo at that time, because it had the advantage of being widely known for its continued use in WTF competitions. Therefore, although the contractual obligation was reflected in the recommendation, it was not the only reason. At that time, when the opinion of Swiss Timing – which has got a better knowledge of the important aspects for the Olympic environment – was unknown, and therefore in the evaluation of December 2010 the functionality of LaJust and Daedo were considered to be similar.
2) Is it true that LaJust was recommended according to the Ad-hoc Committee’s evaluation?
The Ad-hoc Committee analyzed and compared LaJust and Daedo PSS and presented the report to the WTF. In the letter submitted by the WTF it is not stated that “LaJust is recommended according to the evaluation”.
3) Has the Spanish company’s PSS been used and tested thoroughly? Is it perfect?
The LaJust PSS has been used and tested thoroughly but the technical improvements are not entirely satisfactory and it presents a high risk of errors in the score projection, which can be fatal. These technical flaws have shown that there is no way to guarantee the safety of the product in major competitions. On the other hand, Daedo has been used and tested in many competitions even before its Recognition (February 2010). After the agreement it has been used in European Championships, Oceania Championships, SportAccord Combat Games, British Open, Korea Open, etc. Daedo had especially received positive feedback at the Korean Open, organized by the Korea Taekwondo Association, where the level of the technicians is highest, and was regarded as clearly superior than LaJust’s system. Furthermore, Daedo is a brand which produces and supplies other Taekwondo equipment and is well-known worldwide, and has a long-term relationship with the WTF due to its other Taekwondo Recognized equipment.
4) According to the IOC’s Charter, the “IFs have the final responsibility” upon the results of the Olympic competitions. If the LOCOG chooses a product that is not recommended by the WTF, and the WTF accepts the decision, is the WTF avoiding its responsibilty?
The final responsibility of the IF in the Olympic Games, as stated in the Olympic Charter, is in the Taekwondo competition in itself, which includes the application of the rules and all the matters related to the management of the competition. The Olympic Charter states that the organization of the Olympic Games and the Organizing Committee are the IOC and the organizing city, and that the competition is run according to the rules of the IFs. It does not mean that the IF (WTF) is responsible for the sport in itself (Taekwondo) and for the decision on the necessary equipment for the competition.
When deciding the PSS supplier company for the London Olympic Games, Swiss Timing had its priority in the technical capability of the candidate companies. This is because of the responsibility that implies using the PSS for the first time at the Olympic level. Also, contrary to LaJust’s claim, the PSS supplier company becomes a subcontractor of Swiss Timing, which is responsible for the timing and scoring of the 26 Olympic sports. Moreover, it is difficult to discuss the performance of the PSS ignoring its wireless technology, since the PSS is a wireless system. It is not true to say that Swiss Timing chose Daedo ignoring the performance and only taking into account the compatibility. Swiss Timing analysed various aspects such as the compatibility with its own system, the capacity of risk awareness and of problem solving, the data structure and capacity of transmission-reception of information and back-up, and the possibility of meeting the deadlines for technical improvement demanded by Swiss Timing, not to mention the reliability for problem solving.
The Court has never said that Swiss Timing’s decision was not objective, and this is clearly a distortion of the Court’s ruling and a serious defamation of character against IOC and Swiss Timing, the company responsible for the timing and scoring of the 26 Olympic sports.
[LaJust Question 5]
As indicated in the application for injunction, on the 27th of January 2011 the LOCOG (Swiss Timing) already sent an announcement to the WTF confirming that LaJust would be used in the Olympics.
1) Why was this not officially published immediately?
2) Why was this information undisclosed even to LaJust?
The announcement that the LaJust PSS was chosen for the London Olympic Games was written by Swiss Timing on the 31st of January 2011 and it was received on the 15th of February by the WTF after passing through the LOCOG. On the 17th of March serious errors in the LaJust PSS appeared in a South Korean National Team Qualifier. The LOCOG required from all the supplier companies to have the validity of the recognition contract within the duration of the Olympic Games. The WTF wanted to avoid any confusion by announcing the decision on LaJust before discussing the renewal of the contract with the company. Therefore the WTF, through the Secretary General, tried to negotiate first the renewal with LaJust. Without the renewal, the use of LaJust equipment at the Olympics would have been legally impossible. If the WTF had first announced the use of LaJust and the renewal had not been made, it would have caused serious problems. Furthermore, in view of the previous illegal and deceitful marketing strategies carried out by LaJust, the WTF wanted to avoid any possible damages by confirming its use in the Olympics too early (In 2008 LaJust spreaded throughout the European Taekwondo Union a confidential test report about the other PSS company, criticizing it. Then it announced the use of LaJust in the 2009 World Taekwondo Championship when it had not been decided. The WTF had to give a warning to LaJust).
3) Why did Swiss Timing change its decision in favor of Daedo after 100 days?
In February and March 2011, the WTF lost credibility due to the fatal technical errors that ocurred in South Korea, since it had Recognized the LaJust PSS and recommended it for the Olympic Games to the LOCOG. At that moment, the indignation of the Taekwondo related mass media and Taekwondo community had yet not been calmed. Following the Ad-hoc Committee’s advice, the WTF sent a notice upon the deferment of the recommendation of LaJust to the LOCOG and Swiss Timing. This fact was accepted by LaJust through a written oath and an official letter.
In order to guarantee a sucessful edition of the Olympics, the WTF recommended Swiss Timing to perform a fair evaluation of the two Recognized companies in order to choose the most reliable system, and proposed a visit to the Gyeongju World Taekwondo Championships to which 3 technical specialists from Swiss Timing attended. The WTC were watched closely and analyzed, and individual meetings with the two companies were held for a technical analysis and evaluation of the improvement scheme. On the 18th of May, Swiss Timing informed the about its decision of using Daedo PSS at the Olympics due to its superiority over LaJust’s.
[LaJust Question 6] The problem (program error) that arose in the National Team Qualifier happened on the 17th of March, long after the notice upon the Olympic equipment had been made.
Moreover, LaJust corrected the errors and presented the amended software on the 19th of March.On the 5th of April, was it not verified through a test at the Korea National Sports University organized by the WTF and with the presence of KTA members and the press that the same problems would not occur again in the Gyeongju World Taekwondo Championships in may?
Is it not obvious to renew the contract once it has expired, with the Olympics ahead? Also, in the 5th clause of the contract it is stated that “this contract will be renewed automatically for 5 years by mutual agreement. The additional Recognition fee for the 5 year extension and the development funding shall be negotiated”. Should the renewal of the contract be a problem, then?
Apart from the aspects that LaJust claimed to have solved, there were other important technical errors that LaJust were not solving despite of WTF’s demands for doing so. (Due to poor waterproof properties of the product, punch strikes that should not score automatically produced incorrect scores in presence of sweat or water. When a competitor fell down and the trunk protector hit the floor or when two competitors collided with each other, scores were given or a minimum impact was sensed. Due to the weak durability of the PSS there was a higher failure rate, causing interruptions in the competitions and delays for the change in trunk protectors. The weakness in wireless connection also caused interruptions and delayed competitions.)
The statement that with the Olympics ahead, the contract period should be extended automatically after its expiration is groundless. According to the 5th clause of the contract it is stated that the extension shall be done by “mutual agreement”, therefore both parts have to agree to extend the duration of the contract.
[LaJust Question 7] After the Gyeongju WTC President Choue and Secretary General Yang both praised the success of the edition of the Championships in separate interviews, claiming that it had been the most successful one. There were no problems in the Pan-American Qualifier in April (Peru) and the Universiade National Qualifier in June (800 matches) and the US National Championships (3100 matches). Cancelling the Recognition contract unilaterally was not an emotional decision?
Also when the request for injuction was presented, the WTF presented to the court the written oath and tried to insist about the performance of the product but the sentencing read no reason for that. Even though the WTF decided to cancel the contract, is this a fair process?
There is a clear difference between the succes of the “Championships” and the “matches”. Generally, in the interviews following a championship the Organization is praised for its efforts, and using the content of an ordinary positive interview to imply the superiority of LaJust is something ungrounded.
Also, LaJust only listened to the opinion of those Federations with a common interest, and claimed there were no technical problems. However in the WTF-sanctioned and other Federation-sanction competitions, technical problems arose continuously. Especially the errors that occurred in the Korean National Qualifier for the Gyeongju WTC caused a reverse in match results, with important impacts, such as Yeon-Ho Choi announcing his retirement without being able to challenge his fifth title. Even in light of these facts LaJust claimed their system had no technical problems, showing no introspection and an attitude of deceiving the world of Taekwondo.
The request for injunction was presented right before the World Olympic Qualifier and gave no time to respond by gathering all the available information about the technical errors. Therefore the injunction cannot be used to claim that there are no problems with LaJust PSS.
Even though the WTF has consistently demanded improvements, the technical flaws of the LaJust PSS have not been improved and this is enough to terminate the Recognition contract. These technical flaws have not only been identified in WTF-sanctioned competitions but also in other Federation-sanctioned competitions around the world.
[LaJust Question 8] The money that is given by the IOC to Federations of each sport are distributed as dividends of the profits obtained from the entrance tickets and advertising among others. The Federation decides how to use this money. For what purposes did the WTF use the $960 received after the Beijing Olympics? How is the WTF going to compensate for the damages caused to the company due to the WTF’sadministrative faults?
There is no need to answer the question about the use of the dividend received from the IOC. The statement that the WTF has caused damages to LaJust due to its administrative faults is unfounded, and the indiscreet and the ill-mannered press releases and the request of temporary seizure of assets have caused a great damage to the WTF. For that, the WTF will take legal measures against LaJust and claim for damages.
[LaJust Question 9] After the cancellation of the Recognition contract the WTF has informed that it will ask LaJust for compensation for damages, to be paid to all of the MNA’s that have bought the now “useless” LaJust PSS. Is not the WTF entirely responsible for this, since it had Recognized the product and then decided unilaterally to cancel the contract?
Groundless. Even if the WTF Recognized the PSS, LaJust did not respond faithfully to the demands for improvement of technical flaws. The WTF is not responsible for the cancellation of the contract, which was caused by the incapability of the company to improve the system as required. Despite the technical problems, the WTF has tried to respect the first Recognized PSS company until the termination of the contract (in the notice sent on the 18th of May 2011 to all MNA’s the WTF clearly stated that LaJust was not going to be used at the Olympics and its Qualifiers, but it would still be used in other national competitions). However, instead of focusing in improving the technical aspects, LaJust has tried to claim unfounded facts and has confronted the WTF with the injunction, the ruling for provisional seizure of assets and criminal accusation without taking into consideration the image of Taekwondo. Through such attitude, the WTF understood that LaJust had no intention of maintaining the Recognition contract anymore. Thus the decision on the cancellation of the contract is entirely LaJust’s responsibility.
[LaJust Question 10] Not a long ago, Secretary Yang said in Vladivostok that “the WTF headquarters might be transferred outside South Korea. If the Korean Government interevenes in this, I will interfere. I will sue the IOC and will make it impossible for South Korea to participate again in the Olympic Games”, according to someone. Does the WTF think that the Korean Government has something to do in this? As the WTF Secretary General, can he speak about these matters so thoughtlessly?
Groundless. The claim that the WTF headquarters have to be move outside South Korea came from some of the Federation representatives who were present in the 6th World Poomsae Championships in Vladivostok. This comment was made after the impact that the news on the provisional seizure of the funds which was ruled by the South Korean Court in favor of LaJust’s claims. It has nothing to do with the opinion of the executive board of the WTF. No one from the WTF has made such remarks and it is considered that LaJust is trying to come between the Federation and the Government and have a negative influence on the position of Taekwondo in Korea and around the world. Therefore the WTF will not overlook this and will respond powerfully to such false and ungrounded statements made in public.