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Background: The Skating Controversy at the Winter Olympics

February 14, 2002 at 12:00 AM EDT


TERENCE SMITH: The world of Olympic figure skating was in turmoil today after two skating officials suggested that the judging of Monday’s pairs event was tainted. France’s Olympic chief was quoted last night as saying that the French judge had been “somewhat manipulated” into voting for the Russian pair, who were awarded the gold medal over the Canadian duo, Jamie Sale and David Pelletier.

But late today, the French official denied the interpretation of his remarks. An American referee who oversaw the judges during the competition, Ron Pfenning, is said to have filed a report alleging that a judge had been influenced. As they skated Monday night, the Russians, Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, made several apparent errors. When Sale and Pelletier took to the ice, they skated a nearly flawless performance.

NEWSCASTER: Simply perfect.

TERENCE SMITH: But five of the nine judges ranked them below the Russian couple. The decision sparked outrage and questions about the judges’ integrity across Canada and the United States. After their initial and public reaction of shock and criticism of the result, Sale and Pelletier have since been gracious in accepting their silver standing.

JAMIE SALE, Canadian Olympic Pairs Skater: I’m just really glad that we skated the way we did tonight in front of this, the American crowd. And it was an American love story, and it couldn’t have been more perfect.

DAVID PELLETIER, Canadian Olympic Pairs Skater: When the marks came up, it was like a punch in the stomach, but…


DAVID PELLETIER: Twice. People may say that we got robbed, and we can talk about it until next week, but it is not going to change the results, and it’s not going to change the way we look at each other. And this silver medal doesn’t mean our career is a failure or a success. We knew our career was a success before we came here.

TERENCE SMITH: Figure skating’s ruling body, the International Skating Union, announced Tuesday it would conduct an internal assessment. ISU President Ottavio Cinquanta spoke in salt lake yesterday.

OTTAVIO CINQUANTA, President, International Skating Union: It was a very tough competition with performance on the same line. So we are doing this assessment, because there are more. There has about some pressure in order to let, let’s say, the opinion of judges, prevail in favor one participant instead of the other.

TERENCE SMITH: A few hours later, the International Olympic Committee in an unusual move told the figure skating union to settle the dispute quickly.

FRANCOIS CARRARD, President, International Olympic Committee: The IOC is concerned about providing the athletes with the most speedy resolution of this controversy.

TERENCE SMITH: A Canadian Olympic official held his own press conference calling for an independent investigation and offering this solution.

MICHAEL CHAMBERS, President, Canadian Olympic Association: And we see no reason why the Council of the ISU should not consider awarding a second gold medal.

TERENCE SMITH: An 11-member council of the ISU is scheduled to discuss the allegations at a meeting next week.