U.S. would consider supporting South Korea

Updated: August 24, 2004, 3:08 PM ET
Associated Press

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.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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