Sunday, February 17, 2002
Tyagachiov blames media, questions Gardner win
SALT LAKE CITY -- The head of the Russian Olympic committee blamed "an extensive campaign" by the American media for the pairs skating controversy and raised questions about U.S. wrestler Rulon Gardner's upset of a Russian superstar in Sydney.
While it had "the full moral right" to protest the decision that cost Alexander Karelin a fourth gold medal, Leonid Tyagachiov said, the Russian Olympic panel refrained "in order not to sow discord."
Tyagachiov also said that "no protests will follow" from his committee over the decision by the International Olympic Committee to award duplicate gold medals to Jamie Sale and David Pelletier of Canada, who finished the competition second to Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia.
"We respect the decisions of the IOC and the international sports federations, and specifically this decision," Tyagachiov said in a statement. He said the Russian pair would participate and the Russian anthem would be played at the ceremony where Sale and Pelletier receive their medals Sunday night.
But Tyagachiov said the action by the International Olympic Committee and the International Skating Union resulted from "an extensive campaign began in the United States and Canadian press concerning a revision" of the pairs' results.
"This likely caused certain moral damage to the Russian athletes ... and at the same time provided powerful support for" the Canadians, Tyagachiov said. "As a result, the executive board of the IOC decided to present the Canadian pair with a second set of gold medals. ...
"In this case, public opinion played the role of referee, which by all respects cannot replace the institution of the sports referees, even with all of its imperfections."
IOC president Jacques Rogge and ISU president Ottavio Cinquanta acknowledged massive media and public criticism of the silver-medal finish for Sale and Pelletier but insisted the double-gold solution resulted solely because a French judge had been pressured to vote for the Russians.
Tyagachiov expressed "doubts in regard to the legitimacy" of changing results after events are finished.
Specifically, Tyagachiov pointed to Gardner's gold-medal victory over Karelin in the 286-pound class of Greco-Roman wrestling at the 2000 Games, perhaps the greatest upset in Olympic wrestling history. The loss was Karelin's first in 13 years.
Tyagachiov said the American won because of "a judging mistake" but that the Russian Olympic committee, did not protest "in order not to sow discord in the Olympic family and to not create a dangerous precedent."
The U.S. Olympic Committee declined to comment.
Gardner's 1-0 win in Sydney wasn't assured until after a 90-minute review of tapes by the judges, who determined that he held his grip on Karelin while the Russian lost his during a clinch. While there were some complaints of judging bias at the time, other commentators in Moscow blamed Karelin's recent entry into politics for distracting him from wrestling.
Gardner is hospitalized in Idaho in fair condition with frostbite, after getting lost on a snowmobile trek and surviving a frigid night in the Wyoming backcountry.