Tuesday, February 12, 2002
Sources say Russian and French judges made deal
By Cynthia Faulkner
SALT LAKE CITY -- Sources within the International Skating Union have told ESPN/ABC Sports figure skating reporter Christine Brennan that a collaboration between the French and Russian judges helped spark the controversy that has the skating world and the Winter Olympics in an uproar.
The Canadian Olympic delegation on Tuesday was reported to have requested an investigation into why Russians Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze won the gold medal when many observers feel that Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier were more worthy, however, ISU council president Ottavio Cinquanta said they have not received a formal complaint on Wednesday.
Brennan, one of the world's leading authorities on figure skating, says that reliable sources within the ISU told her that a collaboration between the French and Russian judges did happen.
"When (figure skating officials) investigate, I think they're going to find out that the French judge worked a deal with the Russians," Brennan said.
ISU president Ottavio Cinquanta said Wednesday that the referee of the pairs competition, American Ronald Pfenning, "has made certain allegations" about the controversial judging of the event.
Cinquanta did not say what allegations Pfenning made in a letter to the federation. Cinquanta admitted there were other allegations, "but the most important is the one of the referee. He is the coordinator of the competition.
"There's absolutely no doubt that the Canadians should have won. Their 'Love Story' program was just marvelous. The performance was perfect.
"The Russian pair made small errors including a small mistake on one jump. To me it's clear. It should have been crystal clear for the Canadians."
Brennan said she watched the tapes again and the Canadians' performance only gets better.
"I was shocked the moment I saw the scores and I'm still shocked," she said. "I ran into three international judges, all of them judging at the Olympics, within three minutes after the competition. 'This is an outrage,' they said in unison. I've never seen judges come up to a reporter -- as opposed to going away from them -- and say this is an outrage."
Until Monday, only a few diehard figure skating fans in North America knew who Sale and Pelletier were. That's all changed.
"Their agent told me he's had about a hundred calls," Brennan said. "I'm guessing they are now a household name, which never would have been if they'd won the gold medal with no controversy. I would imagine that they became millionaires in the last 24 hours. The sympathy factor is huge."
The scandal already is drawing comparisons to figure skating's most famous pair of all -- Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. The story could grow if the United States were to get involved because it's conceivable that if Sale and Pelletier should have won gold, Americans Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman could have won bronze, Brennan said.
"This is really starting to remind me of Tonya and Nancy, but it's not there yet," Brennan said. "There's something about this that's starting to build and there's the sense that the pace with which it's starting is like it was with Tonya and Nancy. Now there's an investigation and the story has legs."
Cynthia Faulkner is the Olympics editor for ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.