Did federation open a Pandora's box?

Updated: August 23, 2004, 5:21 PM ET
By Sherry Skalko | ESPN.com

ATHENS, Greece -- Paul Hamm is upset. Not because the South Koreans are protesting his gold medal, but rather because the International Gymnastics Federation is allowing them to do so.

Paul Hamm
APPaul Hamm says he'll do whatever the International Gymnastics Federation decides.

The federation, also known as FIG, reviewed videotape of Yang Tae Young's parallel bars routine in the men's all-around competition and said Saturday he was unfairly docked one tenth of a point due to an incorrect start value. With the added value, Yang would have won the competition by 0.051 points over Hamm and won the gold instead of the bronze.

However, FIG ruled the scoring would not be changed because the South Korean contingent didn't file the protest within the allotted time -- before the end of the event. The South Koreans said they did. Now they're appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sports.

Hamm's beef? FIG shouldn't have pressed play in the first place.

By reviewing Yang's routine, Hamm said, FIG has opened a can of worms. If Yang's performance was reviewed to award points for the start value -- the level of difficulty of the routine -- then he should also be deducted two tenths of a point for four holds he committed, Hamm said. A gymnast is allowed only three stoppages in a parallel bar routine.

What's more, Hamm said, it's against the rules for FIG to consult video on its decisions.

"Every routine would have to be reviewed," he said Sunday after completing the individual competition on floor and horse, which he finished in fifth and sixth place, respectively. "That's why we don't have video review in this sport. They shouldn't have even done that. It's against the rules for them to do that."

Hamm's coach, Miles Avery, reviewed the tape after NBC analyst and former gymnast Tim Daggett brought the holds to Avery's attention, USA gymnastics spokesman Brian Eaton said. Avery noted the entire routine -- not just the start value -- should be reviewed.

"I didn't know until they did that, that we have video review in gymnastics," he said. "When I review that tape, as they did to find out if he had a 10.0 starting value, I see that, too. But I also see that there was another error that the judges missed.

"If they are going to review it for one thing, they should review the whole thing, as well."

Efforts to reach a FIG spokesman were unsuccessful.

Under the current system, once an inquiry is filed, the technical delegate will convene with the head judge to discuss what happened. The inquiry is either upheld or rejected, often with an explanation. Videotape is not used.

"I wish the FIG would have stuck to their own rules and said we don't have video review," Avery said. "If you file an inquiry too late, it's too late."

If Yang's start value was increased to 10.0 and then the two tenths were deducted, Avery said Yang would have received a 9.612. "That would be the honest score for the routine," he said.

Hamm pointed out that changing a score after the event -- by videotape or otherwise -- isn't a fair course of action.

"There is a reason why a protest like that has to be done in a certain amount of time," he said. "Everyone in the U.S. can understand it because it's similar to a football game. We don't know what the outcome would have been if the one tenth would have been added. Maybe the gymnast would have been relaxed more going into high bar, maybe he would have had a mistake. We don't know. That's why the score has to be contested by the end of the event."

Which is why Avery also doubts the Koreans' contention that they were told by the judges to file a protest letter after the meet. The United States had submitted an inquiry that same night about Brett McClure's rings routine and the night before on the same event for Jason Gatson. Both grievances were responded to before the next rotation.

"If a football coach throws that red flag, he's not going to wait until after the game for them to review it," he said. "They're going to review it right then.

"Nobody says wait until the next day."

Regardless if the Court of Arbitraion for Sports hears the case or not -- it usually does not review field-of-play decisions -- Hamm and his coaches don't plan on introducing Yang's mistakes to officials and will either share or hand over the gold medal if that's the ruling.

"For me personally, I will abide by anything the FIG decides," Hamm said. "I feel if I were to go against (the FIG) it would be disrespectful and that's not something I want to do."

Avery said he's not opposed to exploring the use of video review in gymnastics, but he added that with the review should come the risk that a gymnast may be deducted points for mistakes that are discovered in the process.

Hamm? He just wants to move on.

"I still feel like I'm Olympic champion," he said, "and that's what I truly believe."

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