Friday, February 15, 2002
Rogge: 'It was resolved in the most just way'
SALT LAKE CITY -- When it heard the head of international
skating say it would take five days to review the biggest judging
scandal in Winter Olympic history, the IOC knew it had to force it
onto a faster path.
On Friday, barely two days later, the International Olympic
Committee got what it wanted -- a quick end to the gold medal
controversy in pairs figure skating that was beginning to
overshadow the rest of the Winter Games.
The result was a combination of private jawboning and low-key
public statements that allowed the IOC to underscore its role as
boss of the Olympics, while promoting the athletes and protecting
an important sport that was under unprecedented pressure.
"It was resolved in the most just way," IOC president Jacques
Rogge said as he announced that a second gold medal in the event
would be given to Canada's Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, whose
second-place finish after a flawless performance had created an
This is the first Olympics as president for Rogge, elected last
July to succeed Juan Antonio Samaranch after 21 years in the most
powerful job in international sports. And the skating case was his
first real chance to stamp his more open style on the games.
The decision announced Friday was done with amazing quickness
for an organization not known for speed.
On Monday night, Sale and Pelletier, the reigning world
champions, finished second to Russia's Elena Berezhnaya and Anton
Sikharulidze by the narrowest of margins, 5-4 on technical merit.
The decision was booed by the crowd at the Delta Center and
lambasted by TV commentators.
While it was dramatic, it seemed at first to be just another
flap over figure skating judges. And the IOC -- which had just been
told by an arbitration court in a doping case that it couldn't tell
Olympic sports how to act at the games -- initially stuck to its
usual line on the separation of powers and responsibilities at the
world's biggest sports event.
After the International Skating Union announced an unusual
"internal assessment" of the judging, IOC director general
Francois Carrard said Tuesday night the committee was
"concerned," but that "the ultimate responsibility for the
results lies with the" ISU.
The criticism accelerated, with the story leading network
newscasts and filling papers and Web sites. Wednesday morning, ISU
president Ottavio Cinquanta told a news conference that allegations
had been made against a French judge who voted for the Russians.
That got the IOC's interest. But Cinquanta's next statement, that
the ISU would not act until its regular council meeting the
following Monday, made Rogge turn pale.
"The five days president Cinquanta discussed caught our
attention," IOC vice president Kevan Gosper said. "He (Rogge)
felt the games were going very well and a matter like this, if left
to run its course, can only have a downside. ... We just couldn't
have the issue drag on, with so much public interest and top
athletes involved, and an important federation."
Wednesday afternoon, Rogge called in Cinquanta, an IOC board
member, and urged him to speed up the review. Officials familiar
with the conversation, speaking on condition of anonymity, said
Rogge mentioned that the IOC had traditionally "fast-tracked"
other issues at the games, including drug testing and eligibility
The IOC then issued a brief but very unusual statement, publicly
asking for the speeded process. It was under pressure itself. In
addition to the media reaction, the IOC was being flooded by public
criticism, with thousands of e-mails urging justice for the
"It's our games, too," IOC director general Francois Carrard
Pressure also built Wednesday when the Canadian Olympic
Association appealed to the ISU to hold an independent
investigation of the judging -- and raised the issue of a double
gold medal for the first time.
"We are not here to pull someone down, we are here to pull
somebody up," COA President Michael Chambers said.
Later that night, France's Olympic chief said the French figure
skating judge, Marie-Reine Le Gougne, was "manipulated" into
voting for the Russians in the pairs competition.
Dick Pound, an IOC member from Canada, said the case was having
"an adverse effect on the IOC," which was just emerging from its
biggest scandal, the million-dollar corruption case invoking Salt
Lake City's winning bid for these very Winter Games.
On Thursday morning, Cinquanta said the ISU would not speed up
its schedule. Although this seemed to fly in the face of the IOC's
request, there was no move to crisis mode.
"We will continue to work as long as necessary," Carrard said.
Rogge said the IOC would "consider any request from the ISU."
Rogge and Cinquanta continued talking, those familiar with the
talks said. "There was no table pounding. That's not Jacques'
style," one of the sources said. "There were long
Cinquanta said the break came Thursday night when Le Gougne told
him she had been "submitted to a certain pressure" from her
federation and signed a statement about how she reached her vote.
"This pressure resulted in putting this judge in a condition not
to give the gold medal" to the Canadians, Cinquanta said, refusing
to give further details.
Le Gougne was suspended indefinitely, with final penalty to be
imposed by the ISU Council later this year. The ISU then drew up a
proposal for dual gold medals, which Cinquanta presented to Rogge
in a phone call shortly before midnight. Rogge then called a
meeting of the IOC's executive board for Friday morning, and the
board approved awarding the duplicate medal on a 7-1 vote with one
"I don't think this has created damage to the Olympic movement,
because it was resolved fast," Rogge said. "This is definitely a