Friday, February 15, 2002
Russian figure skating head criticizes decision
MOSCOW -- The head of Russia's Figure Skating Federation
assailed a decision Friday to award a Canadian duo an Olympic gold
medal in pairs skating alongside the Russian winners.
"This is an unprecedented decision that turned out to be a
result of pressure by the North American press, and turned out in
favor of the fanatically loyal (North American) fans," Valentin
Piseyev told Russia's NTV television by telephone from Salt Lake
"You have seen how the public reacts to any even the tiniest
mistakes of our athletes, and how they absolutely don't notice when
the Canadians fall or when the Americans fall," he said.
Silver finishers Jamie Sale and David Pelletier of Canada
contested the judges' 5-4 vote in favor of the Russian skaters
Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze. The International Skating
Union said Friday it uncovered misconduct by a French judge and
awarded the Canadians a second gold. The Russians will be allowed
to keep their gold as well.
The government weighed in on the controversy Friday, with Deputy
Prime Minister Valentina Matviyenko deploring the scandal that has
taken the luster off Russia's victory.
Matviyenko, the most senior woman in the Russian government,
said she was heading for Salt Lake City on Saturday "to support
the moral spirit of our team and hang out with the youngsters."
"It's a disgraceful fuss," Matviyenko said before the second
gold was announced. "The International Olympic Committee should
get to the root of it and not allow American mass media and
amateurs give marks to our skaters."
The controversy has received wide attention in the Russian
press, whose coverage has been tinged with just a touch of
bitterness over what is perceived in Russia as the Canadians'
unwillingness to accept defeat gracefully, and over allegations the
Russians may somehow have exerted pressure on some of the judges.
Renowned Russian film director Sergei Mikhalkov warned that
Friday's decision was a dangerous precedent that discredited the
"This means they can reconsider any decisions by the judges,"
he said from Salt Lake City on Russia's ORT television.
Izvestia on Friday criticized Canadian media for allegedly
running a smear campaign aimed at discrediting the judges who voted
in favor of Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze.
The Kommersant daily said Sale and Pelletier's complaint would
likely lead to reform of the judging system.
"And that will hardly be favorable to the Russians," the
Many people in Russia long have believed that international
judges are against them. That feeling has faded somewhat since the
end of the Cold War but is still perceptible.
The Trud daily called the scandal a "soap opera in a glass of
dirty water," saying that "one has to be able to lose as well.
Unfortunately, the Canadian Olympic Association has not learned
that" -- a pointed dig at the Canadians.
Piseyev was quoted in Trud as saying: "We have not lost at the
Olympic Games in pairs skating since 1964. That irritates many
Piseyev denied that the Russians had exerted pressure on any
"You have to be able to honorably accept defeat," Piseyev
added. "And if you haven't learned it yet, then learn it."
Russian President Vladimir Putin's only comment on the Olympics
on Friday was a congratulatory message to Alexei Yagudin, who won
the men's single final in skating Thursday.