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Background: The Skating Controversy at the Winter Olympics

February 15, 2002 at 12:00 AM EDT

TRANSCRIPT

TERENCE SMITH: After days of controversy over the pairs figure skating competition, Olympic officials moved today to end to the scandal by taking two unusual steps. They suspended a French judge of the competition for misconduct, and then awarded a rare second gold medal to the Canadian pair, Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, who will share first place honors with the Russian couple.

JACQUE ROGGE, President, International Olympic Committee: We received an official proposal from the International Skating Union to award a gold medal to Sale and Pelletier. The executive board of the IOC agreed and a gold medal will be awarded to the Canadian pair.

TERENCE SMITH: The controversy first erupted Monday night when a panel of judges decided 5-4 to award the gold medal to the Russian duo of Yelena Bereshnaya and Anton Sikharulidze. The score surprised many, since the Russians made several apparent errors in their performance, while the Canadian team skated a nearly flawless performance.

NEWSCASTER: Simply perfect.

TERENCE SMITH: The Canadians finished with the silver medal. And in the days that followed, two skating officials suggested the judging had been tainted by the French judge, Marie-Reine le Gougne, who had been pressured to vote for the Russian team. Today, the president of figure skating’s ruling body, the International Skating Union, said le Gougne had admitted the infraction.

OTTAVIO CINQUANTA, President, International Skating Union: In the International Skating Union rules it’s clearly stated that in the case, an individual, in particular a judge, received pressure or any other type of action, you know, or indication to act improperly, then this individual must immediately inform the referee and the president of the ISU. This did not happen in the case of Mrs. Le Gougne.

TERENCE SMITH: It was only the fourth time in Olympic history that a second gold medal was awarded. The Canadian team said they were glad to hear of the speedy decision, but said they had mixed feelings about the fallout from the scandal.

DAVID PELLETIER, Canadian Olympic Pairs Skater: It’s done. We feel not guilty, but a little bit sad that other athletes around the world are not getting the spotlight they deserve. We’re happy that justice was done.

TERENCE SMITH: A Russian Olympic official quickly criticized the decision saying: it “struck a huge blow, not only to the Olympic spirit of fair competition but also to the whole nature of sport.” But Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, said he hoped the decision would end the controversy and not mar the Olympics.

JACQUES ROGGE, IOC President: I don’t think that it has created damage to the Olympic movement because it was resolved fast, in the best possible way, taking into account the interest of the athletes.

TERENCE SMITH: Sale and Pelletier will likely be awarded their gold medal on Thursday, the final night of the ladies’ skating competition.