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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

3 Judges Slam Gold Medal Ruling

SALT LAKE CITY -- Hours before Jamie Sale and David Pelletier received their gold medals in a ceremony at the Salt Lake Ice Center on Sunday, three veteran judges said there was no provision in the International Skating Union rulebook to serve as a foundation for the awarding of duplicate gold medals.

In its haste to resolve a scandal, the ISU invented a solution based on public outcry and Canada's all-out campaign to turn silver into gold, according to the judges, who are from Western countries and are familiar with the international federation's rules. All three spoke on condition of anonymity.

On Friday, the skating federation declared Sale and Pelletier co-winners of the pairs competition along with the Russians Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze. It also announced the suspension of one of the pairs judges, Marie Reine Le Gougne of France. That action, the three judges said, provided an easy out. They said that even if Le Gougne's marks had been removed, and the controversial voting in the long program had resulted in a 4-to-4 tie among the eight remaining judges, the short program would have served as the tie breaker. In that portion of the competition, Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze were in first place by a 7-to-2 vote -- or 6 to 2 without Le Gougne's marks.

"The Russians won outright, no matter how you look at it," one judge said.

To some skating officials, it remained unclear whether there was a conspiracy to deny the Canadians the gold medal, as widely believed, or whether there was an effort to sabotage the Russians' chance at a major title for the second time in the last year.

Over the past three days, skating officials say allegations concerning possible collusion between Russia and France at the pairs event have emerged, as well as accusations of impropriety on the part of Canada.

"The conspiracy is not a Russian conspiracy, but a Canadian conspiracy," said Shevale Nusuev, a longtime coach and trainer for the Russian skating federation.

Nusuev pointed to what he said was tangible evidence: the marks. The scores from last week's pairs event paint a picture of a Canadian judge who voted out of line with the majority, while Le Gougne scored the event more consistently than anyone else on the panel.

So far, no evidence has been presented to suggest she changed her marks as a result of pressure.

Le Gougne, interviewed by French sports daily l'Equipe in Paris on Monday, maintained she thought Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze had won the competition ahead of Sale and Pelletier.

She said that she had been pressured for months to vote for the Canadian couple and said she was threatened after the Olympic competition and forced to admit she had acted under instructions from the French figure skating federation.

"I did not want to talk straight away, but my reputation has been tarnished and I have nothing to lose," she told the paper. "Since the 2000 world championships in Nice, ISU members influence judges in favor of the Canadian pair Sale and Pelletier. The pressure again increased in Salt Lake City, but I judged in good faith that the Russians were best," she said. (NYT, AP)