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Rogge Defends Giving Duplicate Medals

IOC president says he has no regrets in controversial decision to award golds to Canadian skating pair.

February 24, 2002|ALAN ABRAHAMSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SALT LAKE CITY — International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said Saturday the IOC has no regrets in ratifying the move to award duplicate gold medals last week to a Canadian pairs figure skating duo.

He also said that though the Salt Lake Games have been marked by a number of judging controversies, the IOC has not been and will not be inundated by complaints by those aggrieved by sporting results in Games past and present.

"We have not opened a can of worms," said Rogge, a Belgian overseeing his first Games as IOC president.

He was elected last July to an eight-year term, replacing Juan Antonio Samaranch of Spain, IOC president for 21 years.

Rogge, an IOC member since 1991, said, "When we took the decision, we knew that could trigger during these Games more gripes. I'm not naive. We knew that."

But, he said, not to award duplicate golds to Canadian skaters Jamie Sale and David Pelletier "would have been profoundly unjust, because there had been manipulation of the judgment."

Sale and Pelletier finished second in the pairs skating event, which ended Feb. 11, behind Russia's Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze.

The decision was reconsidered after a French judge told International Skating Union officials she had been "pressured" to vote for the Russians, although she later recanted.

After intense media pressure and an appeal from the Canadian Olympic Assn., the IOC's policy-making executive board accepted an ISU proposal to award Sale and Pelletier golds as well.

Since then, the South Korean delegation has protested a decision last Wednesday in which short-track speed skater Kim Dong-Sung, who had appeared to win the men's 1,500-meter race, was disqualified after impeding the progress of U.S. skater Apolo Anton Ohno on the final lap.

Ohno, who crossed the finish line second, was awarded the gold medal

The Lithuanian delegation protested the judging of the free dance portion of the ice dancing competition, claiming an Italian couple and a Canadian couple had not been penalized--as stipulated in the rule book--for falling.

And Russian officials have protested a variety of decisions, in figure skating, cross-country skiing and men's hockey. Rogge took the extraordinary step of sending a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin saying there is no evidence of a campaign against Russian athletes.

U.S. Olympic Committee President Sandra Baldwin--who at these Games was also made an IOC member--said she intends to take up in the coming weeks the case of boxer Roy Jones Jr., who took silver behind a South Korean boxer at the 1988 Seoul Games.

Jones, most ringside observers believed, had won the fight easily. Later, according to minutes from the IOC's board minutes, boxing judges at those Games admitted receiving $300 per day from South Korean officials, purportedly for meals and taxi rides.

"Our position is extremely clear," Rogge said Saturday.

"Whatever is done in good faith but is the result of human error, athletes have to accept that.

"Where there is corruption, flawed judgments, then we will act. But that has to be substantiated and proved, absolutely, yes."

He explained: "In tennis, you have a line call and they say the ball is out of the line but you can see on the replay that the ball is in, you don't change the result of the match. You have to accept that. That's our point of view."

He also said the IOC intends over the next few months, after the glare of the Games spotlight has faded, to consult with officials of the skating union and other international sports federations, to see "how we can defuse in the future the protestations."

In the meantime, Rogge said, "You can not just turn a blind eye on people getting emotional. Much of it is really non-objective [but] we have to try to make sure that things work in the future.

"People have short memories," he said, adding that controversies over judging are "not a new fact. It's probably going to happen in the past. It's probably going to happen in the future."

He also recalled that as an Olympic athlete--he was a sailor for the Belgian team in three Summer Games--he was on hand for the "whole controversy about the basketball match in 1972," the Soviet Union's 51-50 victory over the United States.

That result took place after referees had put three seconds back on the clock though the game had appeared to be over--with the United States ahead, 50-49.

Given three extra seconds, the Soviets threw a pass the length of the court, which led to a layup and victory.

Mindful of the outrage that lingers in many quarters from that game 30 years ago, Rogge drew a comparison to the controversies that have erupted at the 2002 Winter Games.

"This here was peanuts compared to that," he said.

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