Russia's protest denied by ISU

Slutskaya gold sought

Putin says team won't boycott the games

Winter Olympics

Salt Lake City 2002

February 23, 2002|By THE NEW YORK TIMES

SALT LAKE CITY - Hours after the gold medal was presented to Sarah Hughes yesterday for her performance in the women's figure skating final Thursday night, Russian Olympic officials filed a protest, arguing that "unobjective judging" denied first place to their skater Irina Slutskaya.

The Russians asked the International Skating Union to reconsider the result and give a second gold medal to Slutskaya, the runner-up.

The skating union quickly denied the protest, but not before it set off the latest storm at the Winter Olympics over questionable judging, prompting widespread criticism of the Olympics across Russia and another series of hastily scheduled meetings here involving efforts by Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, to soothe the wounded pride of Russian Olympic leaders. He agreed to receive from them a list of grievances that IOC executives would consider in the months ahead.

In Moscow yesterday, President Vladimir Putin said the Russian team would not leave before the games' scheduled end tomorrow and that no future Olympic boycotts were contemplated, a message that ended threats made by Leonid Tyagachev, the president of the Russian Olympic Committee, here on Thursday.

As yet another disruption roiled the flow of events, the protest over the Hughes victory underscored an image that these Olympics have become the Games of Protest, arising from the IOC's eagerness under a new president to deal with any crisis in an expeditious manner.

It is a strategy that began last week during the figure skating pairs competition and seems to have backfired, in effect, by inviting more countries to file protests over perceived slights and errors by judges.

In the pairs, public outcry over the judging throughout North America led the skating union to disqualify one judge and recommend that the silver medalists, Jamie Sale and David Pelletier of Canada, share gold medals with Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia.

The IOC had pressed the skating union to act swiftly to resolve the controversy. But now, more than a week later, some IOC members say the committee acted hastily in leaning on the skating federation and that it set a dangerous precedent by awarding a second gold medal out of concern for public sentiment.

"Some IOC members didn't think it was a good idea, prospectively," said Anita DeFrantz, a committee member from the United States.

Kim Un Yong, an IOC member from South Korea, said he and other members were "concerned with the ricochet, especially in the subjective sports," a suggestion that the decision in the pairs might encourage future challenges in sports that use judges, rather than a clock or scores.

He said the IOC might consider wresting some of the control over the operation of sports at the Olympics from their international federations as a way to supervise judging more closely and safeguard the integrity of results.

"Gold medals," Kim said, "should not be reversed in conference rooms."

The Russians said the denial of their protest on Slutskaya's behalf was another example of anti-Russian fervor among judges that included a decision Thursday to disqualify the Russian women's 20-kilometer cross-country relay team after one skier, Larisa Lazutina, was found to have high levels of hemoglobin in her blood.

In other news, the IOC persuaded South Korea to back off its threat to boycott the closing ceremony over the disqualification of short-track speed skater Kim Dong-sung. South Korea has appealed with the Court of Arbitration in Sport to overturn Wednesday's ruling, which gave the gold to U.S. skater Apolo Anton Ohno in the 1,500 meters.

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