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U.S. would consider supporting South Korea

8/24/2004

ATHENS, Greece -- While the U.S. Olympic Committee and South
Koreans tried to work out a deal in a dispute over Paul Hamm's gold
medal, the head of gymnastics' ruling body all but said they were
wasting their time.

Bruno Grandi, president of the International Gymnastics
Federation, told The Associated Press on Monday night that rules
prevent him from asking for another gold medal to make up for the
scoring error that cost Yang Tae-young the all-around title.

"I don't have the possibility to change it," Grandi told the
AP. "Our rules don't allow it."

Hamm won the gold Wednesday after judges incorrectly scored
Yang's parallel bars routine, failing to give him enough points for
the level of difficulty. Yang ended up with the bronze while Hamm
became the first American man to win the event.

USOC officials met with members of the South Korean Olympic
Committee on Sunday and Monday, and were trying to find an
"equitable solution," said Darryl Seibel, a spokesman for the
USOC.

"We have indicated to them that we would be willing to consider
the notion of a second gold medal being awarded," Seibel told the
AP. "It's up to the Korean Olympic Committee to determine how it
wants to proceed. There's a willingness to at least consider this
idea."

Jae Soon-yoo, an official for the South Korean delegation, was
in a meeting Monday and didn't immediately comment.

But all the negotiations might be for naught. Even if the USOC
and South Koreans reach an agreement, FIG would have to ask the
International Olympic Committee to award a second gold medal.

And that would require FIG to rewrite its rulebook.

Under the rules, protests have to be filed immediately, and the
South Koreans waited until after the meet to lodge their complaint.
FIG rules also prevent scores from being changed once the meet is
over.

"If the athlete does not agree to give up his medal, I don't
know what we can do," IOC member Alex Gilady said.

And Grandi seemed to indicate that's what he would like.

"For me, the best situation would be for Paul Hamm to take this
medal and give ..." Grandi told the AP, pretending to remove a
medal from around his neck and leaving the sentence unfinished.

But Hamm said he has no plans to give up the medal unless
someone asks him.

"I truly believe in my heart that I am the Olympic all-around
champion," Hamm said. "I did my job, and I competed with pride
and integrity."

The federation has made an exception at least once before. When
Irina Karavaeva learned that a judging error had wrongly given her
the title at the 2001 trampoline world championships, she asked
that it be given to the rightful winner, Anna Dogonadze. Grandi
gave his OK, and the results were officially changed.

At issue here is the tenth of a point deducted from Yang's start
value in the fifth of six events in the all-around. He received a
9.9 for a routine that had been given a 10 start value in team
preliminaries and finals.

He finished third, 0.049 points behind Hamm, who came back from
12th with two events left for the victory. With the extra 0.100,
Yang would have finished first and Hamm second, and Kim Dae-eun of
South Korea would have won the bronze instead of silver.

The federation admitted the error and suspended the two judges
who determined the start values -- Benjamin Bango of Spain and Oscar
Buitrago Reyes of Colombia -- along with the judge who oversaw the
panel, George Beckstead of the United States. But nothing more can
be done, it insists.

"I have no other possibilities," Grandi told the AP.

South Korea promised to take its case to the Court of
Arbitration for Sport, although it had not filed its appeal as of
Monday night. CAS indicated it wouldn't take the case because it
involved a "field of play" decision, so the South Koreans
approached the USOC about finding a diplomatic solution.

"All of this, it opens a whole Pandora's box of future
challenges that aren't within the rules," said Peter Vidmar, the
silver medalist in the 1984 Olympics. "What's the statute of
limitations for grievances in sport now? There have to be rules."

The case has brought back memories of the figure skating scandal
at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002, when Canadians Jamie Sale and
David Pelletier were given duplicate gold medals after a French
judge said she had been "pressured" to put a Russian couple ahead
of them.

But there are no such signs of impropriety in this case, only
human error.

"After this competition is over, FIG needs to do a review of
its policies for on-the-field review," USA Gymnastics president
Bob Colarossi said.

Hamm admitted the controversy has been a distraction, and he
failed to medal on the floor, pommel horse or parallel bars. He won
a silver medal on high bar Monday night, putting on a dazzling
performance after being forced to wait 10 minutes while the crowd
booed Alexei Nemov's score. Yang finished 10th.