Thursday, February 14, 2002
Updated: February 15, 12:06 PM ET
IOC, ISU ready to discuss controversy
SALT LAKE CITY -- The Olympic figure skating controversy may be nearing its conclusion.
Reuters is reporting that two gold medals will be awarded -- one to Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier along with the one to Russians Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sukharulidz.
Earlier, the controversy shifted to an international sports tribunal Friday after Canadian officials said silver medalists Jamie Sale and David Pelletier should be awarded the gold and demanded an explanation from the judges involved.
In an urgent appeal filed late Thursday, the Canadians asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport to compel the nine judges at Monday night's pairs competition to testify before a CAS panel.
The court scheduled a hearing in Salt Lake City for Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. ET. The request will be handled by three arbitrators, from England, Switzerland and Italy.
The Canadian Olympic Association also asked that a gold medal be awarded to Canadians Sale and Pelletier, but it was unclear whether the court has that authority.
In the meantime, the tribunal ordered the International Skating Union to ensure that its referees and judges remain in Salt Lake City and be prepared to bring any records relating to their scoring of the event.
The arbitration panel frequently handles Olympic disputes to keep the cases out of the courts. The ISU would be bound by its decision.
The controversy has dominated the games. Sale and Pelletier were beaten by Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia after a 5-4 vote that surprised many observers. Many felt the Canadians skated a flawless program and the Russians had not.
Since then, there have been reports that the French judge was pressured to cast her vote for the Russians. The ISU is expected to review the scoring at a meeting Monday, and the International Olympic Committee has urged the skating federation to resolve the matter swiftly.
Canadian officials have said they didn't want the Russians stripped of the gold medal, but they believe Sale and Pelletier should be rewarded if evidence of wrongdoing is uncovered.
In their appeal to the CAS, the Canadians asked that the gold medal be awarded "on the merits of the case."
Earlier, the IOC wouldn't rule out the possibility that a second gold medal could be awarded to the Canadians, something that hasn't happened in the Olympics since a second gold in synchronized swimming was awarded following the 1992 Barcelona Games.
IOC member Kevan Gosper said the committee hasn't discussed such a proposal, but added, "I'm not saying it can't happen."
"The IOC will consider any request from the ISU," president Jacques Rogge said.
The head of the skating union said it would be difficult but not impossible to award a gold to Sale and Pelletier.
"Nothing is impossible," Ottavio Cinquanta told NBC Sports.
On Friday's "Today" show on NBC, Berezhnaya said she and her partner deserved the gold, but conceded the competition skated well.
"Why don't we have three gold medals, maybe one more, maybe for the American couple too," she said. "They have standing ovation and they skated great."
Meanwhile, France's top Olympic official said that the French judge at the heart of the imbroglio -- Marie-Reine Le Gougne -- "voted in honesty and with good conscience," despite pressure from coaches.
"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," said Didier Gailhaguet, head of the French Olympic committee and skating federation.
Gailhaguet said his remarks had been misinterpreted by The Associated Press.
"There was no misinterpretation on our part," AP sports editor Terry Taylor said. "Our reporter called Gailhaguet on his cell phone, identified himself and conducted an interview entirely in French for at least five minutes."
Gailhaguet denied that the French federation pressured Le Gougne or that there was any collusion with other judges. He said that La Gougne had written to the ISU "that her vote was not influenced and that she voted in honesty and with good conscience."
The Canadian Broadcast Corp. reported Thursday that Britain's Sally-Ann Stapleford, who is on the ISU's technical committee, said Le Gougne approached her after the event and "expressed some concern" that there had been an impropriety before the event. She would not elaborate.
Le Gougne favored the Russians despite an obvious technical error, joining judges from former Eastern bloc members Russia, Poland, Ukraine and China. ISU rules prevent judges from commenting publicly about decisions and Le Gougne has refused to accept calls to her hotel.
Valentin Piseyev, president of the Russian Skating Federation, said the organization had not pressured any judges.
"That's absolutely silly," Piseyev told the Russian daily Trud. "You have to be able to honorably accept defeat. And if you haven't learned it yet, then learn it."
In Moscow, Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matviyenko called the controversy "a disgraceful fuss," and said she was going to Salt Lake City to support the Russian team.
"The International Olympic Committee should get to the root of it and not allow American mass media and amateurs (to) give marks to our skaters," she said, according to the Interfax news agency.
The developments came on the eve of the ice dancing competition, an event with the reputation of very subjective scoring.
U.S. ice dancing coach Alexander Zhulin said figure skating is rife with corruption and judges are under pressure to fix decisions.
"All federations are involved, not only the Russians," said Zhulin, a Russian-born 1994 Olympic silver medalist who works with U.S. dancers Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev. "All federations are trying to do the best for their skaters and get first place.
"Some people are strong, some are weak and just follow what their federation says. It's corruption. ... It's dirty."
IOC director general Francois Carrard said Cinquanta has given his assurance that the ice dance competition would "be presented in the most proper way" when the compulsories begin Friday night.
Some skaters and coaches said they feared that judges might juggle their votes to avoid the appearance of fixing the competition. They said that might hurt the chances of one of the favorites, French couple Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat.
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."