Tuesday, February 26, 2002
Federation head points finger at media
PARIS -- The president of the French skating federation
called the decision to award a second Olympic gold medal to Canada
in the pairs competition "total nonsense."
Didier Gailhaguet, returning from the Winter Games in Salt Lake
City, also insisted Tuesday that there was no wrongdoing on the
part of either French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne or the French
"We were dirtied in a media affair without precedent,"
Le Gougne sparked one of the biggest controversies in Olympic
skating history this month when she cast a crucial vote in favor of
Russians Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze over Canadians
Jamie Sale and David Pelletier. The Russians won 5-4 despite an
obvious technical error.
Le Gougne at first said she'd been pressured into voting for the
Russians by Gailhaguet -- apparently in a vote-swapping deal to
assure a victory in ice dancing for the French couple, Marina
Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat. But then she recanted that story and
said she had voted honestly and with her conscience.
Canadian judge Benoit Lavoie was quoted in Tuesday's editions of
Le Journal de Montreal as saying that Le Gougne "confessed to not
having had a choice in favoring the Russian couple."
Lavoie added that Le Gougne also "implicated Didier Gailhaguet
as the source of this pressure."
And he denied the French judge's accusation that he lobbied
colleagues to favor Sale and Pelletier.
"All I can say is I've never had trouble sleeping," Lavoie
said during a news conference Tuesday in Ste. Foy, Quebec. "I feel
comfortable with everything I did."
Breaking his silence over the controversy, Lavoie said he felt
Sale and Pelletier clearly deserved the gold medal, but denied
campaigning on their behalf.
"In my heart it was clear. There should have been a majority --
or even unanimity," he said. "I'd really thought they won."
The International Olympic Committee suspended Le Gougne
indefinitely and awarded a gold medal to the Canadian pair.
Gailhaguet criticized those actions and said he thinks Le Gougne
voted for the Russians simply because she believed they deserved to
"To accuse people, you need evidence," he said. "In no case
did we cheat."
"It was total nonsense to award two gold medals," Gailhaguet
After retracting her earlier story, Le Gougne suggested she was
pressured by senior skating officials in Canada and that Sally
Stapleford, chairwoman of the International Skating Union's
powerful technical committee, suggested she identify the French
federation as the culprit.
Stapleford was born and raised in Britain and lives in London,
but also holds a Canadian passport.
"I have trouble understanding this enormous pressure (on Le
Gougne)," Lavoie said. "We're trained for it. We all have
pressure. (Le Gougne) has experience. She's been to the Olympics
The Canadian Olympic Association has dismissed any claims of
"I don't know if she did that, I wasn't there," Gailhaguet
said Tuesday. "But if she did, she should immediately resign."
He also said the French skating federation has made proposals to
reform the judging system.
"That's what we wanted, but we have systematically been
rebuffed by the Anglo-Saxon countries," he said. "So who is
profiting from the crime?"
The ISU will meet in April to make a final decision about the
accusations. The ISU Council received a report from its
Le Gougne and Gailhaguet will have a chance to defend themselves
at the meeting in April. No date has been set.