Thursday, February 14, 2002
Updated: February 15, 10:34 AM ET
Two golds difficult, but not impossible
SALT LAKE CITY -- Two gold medals?
The International Olympic Committee wouldn't rule out the possibility that a second gold medal could be awarded to the Canadian pairs skaters as a way to end the judging controversy that has marred the sport and dominated the Winter Games.
"The IOC will consider any request from the ISU," president Jacques Rogge said, referring to the International Skating Union.
IOC member Kevan Gosper said the committee hasn't discussed such a proposal, but added, "I'm not saying it can't happen."
The head of the skating union said it would be "very difficult, not impossible," to award a gold medal to Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, who narrowly lost to the Russians in a questionable vote.
"Nothing is impossible," Ottavio Cinquanta told NBC Sports.
Earlier, he rebuffed pressure to speed up a review of the judging despite demands for action from the IOC and worries by skaters that the controversy might taint other events.
The union's meeting is scheduled for Monday.
"We do not understand why we should be deciding something so important as a medal in one day," Cinquanta said later Thursday while at the men's final. "We want to make the proper decision. It is not easy."
Canadian officials said they don't want Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze stripped of the gold medal, but they believe Sale and Pelletier should be rewarded if any evidence of wrongdoing is uncovered.
"We are not here to pull someone down, we are here to pull somebody up," said Michael Chambers, president of the Canadian Olympic Association. "We see no reason why the council of the ISU should not consider awarding a second gold medal."
French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne is at the center of the controversy in Salt Lake City.
Didier Gailhaguet, head of the French Olympic committee and the country's figure skating federation, told an Associated Press reporter she was pressured to "act in a certain way" before she voted for the Russians on Monday night.
During an interview in French, he said she was "somewhat manipulated," but denied any wrongdoing by his federation.
"Some people close to the judge have acted badly and have put someone who is honest and upright but emotionally fragile under pressure," Gailhaguet said Wednesday night. "We cannot continue to let our judge be lambasted in this way. What is true is that Marie-Reine has been put under pressure, which pushed her to act in a certain way."
On Thursday, after saying his remarks had been misinterpreted, Gailhaguet addressed the subject again at an evening news conference.
"It is clear that Marie-Reine was approached by certain people who had an interest to see their couple win -- coaches, left and right. It is a classic thing in figure skating," he said.
Referring to the ISU, Gailhaguet added, "She wrote to the highest authority that her vote was not influenced and that she voted in honesty and with good conscience."
During the 40-minute session, Gailhaguet again denied that the French federation pressured her, or that there was any collusion with judges from Eastern European nations.
Le Gougne was one of five judges who favored the Russians despite the couple's obvious technical error. She voted along with majority in a 5-4 decision, joining judges from former Eastern bloc members Russia, Poland, Ukraine and China.
International Skating Union rules prevent judges from commenting publicly about decisions. Le Gougne refused to accept calls to her hotel.
The awarding of two gold medals in a single event has happened before.
In 1993, the IOC awarded a second gold medal in synchronized swimming from the Barcelona Games to Canada's Sylvie Frechette. The IOC's executive board agreed that Frechette was placed second because of a judging error and should be awarded a gold.
The decision came after the Canadian swimming federation protested because a Brazilian judge was not allowed to correct the 8.7 score she mistyped into her computer. The intended 9.7 would have given Frechette the gold. The IOC's decision did not affect Kristen Babb-Sprague of the United States, who was originally awarded the gold and kept her medal.
A day earlier, the IOC warned the ISU to resolve the matter quickly, an action by the committee that was considered highly unusual.
"We are concerned for the athletes," IOC director general Francois Carrard said.
Carrard said the skating chief also assured Rogge that the ice dance competition, often the subject of disputed judging, would "be presented in the most proper way" when it begins Friday night.
Some skaters feared that judges might now juggle their votes to avoid the appearance of fixing in ice dancing. That might hurt the chances of the favored French couple, Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat.
"I think the judges are in big trouble if the French win," said Alexander Zhulin, who coaches U.S. and Canadian ice dancers and was a silver medalist in 1994. "Because of huge pressure on the Russian federation, they will try not to vote for the French. It's best for everyone if Lithuania will win."
German ice dancer Kati Winkler said the judges will have to be careful.
"What happened on Monday was wrong because it was so obvious," she said. "Now everyone will be watching what the judges do."