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Saturday, February 16, 2002
Russians just want to leave scandal behind

Reuters

SALT LAKE CITY -- Russian figure skaters Anton Sikharulidze and Elena Berezhnaya are content with the decision to award Olympic gold to Canadian pair Jamie Sale and David Pelletier.

"We just want to put an end to this scandal, to be friends with our fellow athletes and be one happy figure skating family once again," Sikharulidze told Reuters at a reception honoring the new men's Olympic champion Alexei Yagudin and silver medalist Evgeni Plushenko.

"This whole ordeal took a lot out of all of us, that's why we were glad it ended one way or the other."

The International Olympic Committee awarded gold to Sale and Pelletier after the judge in the pairs competition Monday was suspended for misconduct in the furor over the voting that shoved the Canadians into second place behind the Russians.

Sikharulidze said he was shocked when he first heard the announcement Friday.

"My first reaction was 'Wow, how could they do that,'" he said. "But again I must say that we're athletes, not politicians. We came here to compete and don't want to get into this political mess."

Berezhnaya told NBC earlier: "Well, it was a big deal to decide whether they would award one more gold medal. We just have to accept it because we can't do anything."

French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne has been suspended over the voting that handed the Russian duo a 5-4 split decision.

Earlier Friday, Russian Olympic Committee official Rudolf Nezvegsky questioned the IOC decision.

He told Reuters: "It went against any moral and ethical norms that exist in sport where athletes, not lawyers, compete against each other on the slopes and in the sports arenas and not in back rooms."

The Russians keep their gold. The Canadians are expected to receive their medals at the Olympic rink next Thursday.