FBI probed Russian during Salt Lake City Olympics 26
Man accused in figure skating fix attempt to be extradited to U.S. 39
IOC chief 'appalled' by organized crime involvement 44
Berezhnaya, Sikharulidze take gold in pairs
Posted: Monday February 11, 2002 11:18 PM
Updated: Tuesday February 12, 2002 4:26 PM
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- With a disgusted wave of his hand, David Pelletier seemed to sum up what many were thinking: Figure skating will never outgrow judging controversies.
Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze kept the Russians' pairs dominance going. AP
Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze extended Russia's dominance of Olympic pairs Monday night by the slimmest of margins over Canada's Pelletier and Jamie Sale. One judge, from China, favored the Russians in a tiebreaker.
"Without a doubt, I am ashamed for my sport," said the Canadian world champions' choreographer, Lori Nichol, who admittedly is not unbiased.
Pelletier said: "When the marks came up, I am a human being, I was sad to come second."
It was clear who the crowd thought had won as it chanted "Six, Six" after the Canadians finished their routine and Pelletier fell to his knees to kiss the ice.
And many fans booed when the scoreboard showed Russia had won Olympic gold for the 11th consecutive Winter Games.
"When you skate your best and come in second, it is difficult," said Sale, who recovered from a collision with Sikharulidze during warmups. "It shook me up. ... It was kind of a nightmare. I just said, 'This is my ice, my time.' I went out and fought to the very end."
When Sikharulidze and Sale collided, it sent her sprawling to the ice on her hands and knees. But each team shook off the mishap to skate superbly.
"I hope everything is good with Jamie," Sikharulidze said. "It was just a small accident."
The Russians saw little reason to wonder about the results.
"Controversy about what decision?" said Tamara Moskvina, their coach. "The results are already written, publicized and announced. The public stadium applauded for the silver medalists, the gold medalists and the bronze medalists.
"For two years, we considered that Elena and Anton won, but it went to the other couple. We didn't accuse the North American block, we just accepted it. So now it is our time."
China's Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo won the bronze.
American champions Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman finished fifth, but he called the performance "the greatest thing we've ever done." The other Americans, Tiffany Scott and Philip Dulebohn, finished 13th.
The Russians collected seven 5.9s for artistry, with the 5.9 from the Chinese judge making the difference -- and ensuring a Russian or Soviet pair has won every gold medal since 1964.
But even the NBC broadcasters thought the Canadians had won.
"How did that happen?" asked 1984 Olympic champion Scott Hamilton.
"That will be debated forever."
The winners made one error when Sikharulidze stepped out of a double axel. But their skill for skating in unison and the passion of their program, to "Meditation," won over enough judges -- if not the crowd.
The Canadians, who had won their last nine competitions, then responded with a spectacular, mistake-free performance to "Love Story" that included two huge throw jumps.
They didn't, however, get the 6.0s the fans sought, and only four 5.9s for artistry, leaving them sore and in second.
"What we can't control, we can't control," said Pelletier, who was near tears. "That's the way it is. If I didn't want this to happen to me, I would have gone downhill on skis."
The gold capped a long, sometimes distressing climb for Berezhnaya-Sikharulidze, who finished second at the 1998 Games and then won two world titles.
In 2000, Berezhnaya failed a drug test, which she said was caused by over-the-counter cold medicine. They withdrew from the world championships, then were suspended for three months by the International Skating Union and stripped of their European crown.
The Russians also skipped last month's European championships because she hurt her leg.
Far worse was a head cut in 1996, when her former partner, Oleg Shliakov, sliced her with his skate while they practiced a spin. Berezhnaya barely escaped injuries to her brain.
But now, she and Sikharulidze, who train in Hackensack, N.J., are Olympic champions, giving Moskvina four Olympic pairs gold medalists.
"You know, all competitions are decided by fate," Sikharulidze said, "and every time by different skating from each pairs."
Moskvina also coaches Ina and Zimmerman, the three-time U.S. champions who had a magical night, even though they didn't win a medal.
Ina, who was ninth in the 1994 Games and fourth in '98 partnered with Jason Dungjen, leaped like a schoolgirl with straight A's on her report card when she saw the couple's marks. She and Zimmerman, who became her partner in 1998, flashed smiles with 30 seconds left in their routine.
And Ina pumped her fist in the air as they entered their final spin.
The highlight of their performance was their candle lift, in which Zimmerman carried Ina around more than one-third of the rink while she is upside-down, her head resting on his shoulder.
"It was so much fun, in one way I wish it could last another four minutes," Ina said. "But I'm glad it ended where it did, because I don't think I could've contained my excitement anymore."
Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Canadian duo receives pairs skating medals
Posted: Sunday February 17, 2002 11:08 PM
Updated: Monday February 18, 2002 12:55 AM
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- These are gold medals to be shared, not divided.
Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia (left) and Jamie Sale and David Pelletier of Canada pose with their gold medals. AP
Jamie Sale and Elena Berezhnaya climbed the medals podium hand-in-hand to cheers of a packed arena, while David Pelletier and Anton Sikharulidze chatted like dear old friends.
Bound together in history by scandal, the pairs figure skaters are now linked forever by a medal.
Standing next to Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze, their Russian co-champions, Sale and Pelletier accepted the gold that was awarded Friday in an extraordinary move by the International Olympic Committee.
"We were just kind of laughing, saying 'This is so funny, we'll never experience this again,'" Sale said after Sunday night's ceremony. "It was a moment to be the four of us."
A week of bitterness, turmoil and tears was erased in a celebration of two very different couples, both champions.
"I am so happy because I think now it is finished," Sikharulidze said.
Sale and Pelletier accepted their medals from International Skating Union president Ottavio Cinquanta, who made the recommendation to award the duplicate golds and who suspended the judge in the middle of the uproar for misconduct.
But the magnitude of the moment didn't seem to sink in for Sale and Pelletier until O Canada was played after the Russian anthem. As the Canadian flag rose beside the Russian flag, tears of joy filled Sale's eyes and Pelletier began blinking rapidly, as if to keep from crying.
When a camera closed in on Sale, her grin spread a little wider and she winked.
"This was better than I expected,'"Pelletier said. "The four of us were part of history. It was a tough few days, but now we're happy to put some closure to it and we can go on and be happy with our gold medal."
When the anthem finished, the couples turned to the cheering crowd, waving their yellow roses in acknowledgment. Pelletier and Sikharulidze hugged; Berezhnaya and Sale did, too.
Then Pelletier put his arms around Berezhnaya as if they were the best of friends. Afterward, the Canadians gave the Russians gifts, tokens of a camaraderie forged in the midst of a nightmare.
"Both of us have had a hard time ... and it is not fair to us as athletes," Sale said.
Sale and Pelletier, who are also a couple off the ice, finished second to Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze by the slimmest of margins, losing 5-4 in the pairs free skate last Monday.
Boos rained down at the Salt Lake Ice Center when the marks flashed, and Pelletier buried his head in his hands as Sale cried. With silver medals around their neck that time, both wept as they stood on the podium and listened to the Russian national anthem.
The tears Sunday night were different.
Skating has a long history of questionable decisions, but this one was bigger than any other.
When French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne admitted she'd been pressured to put the Russians first, the ISU knew it had to do something extraordinary. At the ISU's request, the IOC on Friday awarded a second gold medal to Sale and Pelletier, making them co-champions.
"It is an exit out of a situation there isn't really an exit out of," Valentin Piseyev, chairman of the Russian Figure Skating Federation, said before the ceremony.
Sale and Pelletier originally were supposed to get their gold medals Thursday night -- bumping up against the women's free skate. But not even the darlings of Salt Lake City could interfere with that. After all, Americans hope to see Michelle Kwan or Sasha Cohen or Sarah Hughes win a medal that night. Or maybe a few.
Five minutes after the original dance ended, the two couples -- dressed in their national warm-up suits -- appeared in an entry way just off the ice. One big difference: Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze were already wearing the burnished gold medals.
At first, it didn't look like a momentous occasion. While the Olympic anthem played, Pelletier and Sikharulidze chatted like two schoolboys in the back of the room.
As the couples were introduced -- "Welcome to the gold medalists!" -- Berezhnaya and Sale smiled at each other and climbed the podium. Pelletier and Sikharulidze followed, still talking and laughing.
Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze had worried about how they would be received, but within minutes it was clear the reception would be grand.
Then, finally, it was Sale and Pelletier's turn, and the crowd responded with a roar that shook the building.
"It was just a bizarre moment, it was so weird," Sale said. "But we said we will make the best of it, and we smiled and went out and had fun.
"We are never going to experience that again. We hope not, anyway."
Copyright 2002 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.
Almost a week after competing in pairs figure skating, Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier received gold medals Sunday. The IOC and international skating union decided Friday to award additional golds to the Canadians, who are now co-champions with the Russian team of Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze.
Video Box: Sale and Pelletier appear on Larry King Live.
Video Box: Kerrigan provides her perspective on the controversy.
Video Box: IFS's Lund: ISU can't change outcome.
Tuesday, Feb. 12
ISU launches inquiry into pairs judging
Canadians furious over controversial pairs decision
Pelletier considers quitting skating after controversy
Video Box: Canadian skaters react to the judging controversy.
Monday, Feb. 11
Russians Berezhnaya, Sikharulidze take gold in pairs
Sale, Sikharulidze crash in warmups
Russian victory stuns television broadcasters
Alleged crime boss arrested in scandal
Posted: Wednesday July 31, 2002 2:00 PM
Updated: Thursday August 01, 2002 7:43 PM
NEW YORK (AP) -- A reputed Russian crime boss was arrested Wednesday on charges he fixed two figure skating events at the Salt Lake City Games by arranging a vote-swapping deal, yet another bizarre twist in a scandal that has tainted the sport.
Alimzan Tokhtakhounov was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit bribery. AP
Alimzan Tokhtakhounov, picked up in Italy on U.S. charges, is accused of scheming to get a French judge to vote for the Russian pairs team, which won the gold medal. In exchange, he arranged for the Russian judge to vote for the winning French ice dancing team, according to a criminal complaint filed in Manhattan federal court.
The judging controversy, the biggest in Olympic history, resulted in a duplicate set of gold medals being awarded to the Canadian pairs team.
Wiretaps used in a mob investigation captured a series of telephone calls between Tokhtakhounov in Italy and unnamed conspirators during the games that "lay out a pattern of conduct that connects those two events," U.S. Attorney James Comey told a news conference.
The suspect "arranged a classic quid pro quo: 'You'll line up support for the Russian pair, we'll line up support for the French pair, and everybody will go away with the gold, and perhaps there'll be a little gold for me,"' Comey said.
Prosecutors said that Tokhtakhounov hoped he would be rewarded with a visa to return to France, where he once lived.
Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze won the gold medal by the slimmest of margins in pairs figure skating, defeating Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier. But French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne said the next day she'd been pressured to vote for the Russians, who slipped during their routine while the Canadians were virtually flawless.
FBI probed Russian
during Winter Games
NEW YORK (AP) -- In the middle of the figure skating uproar at the Salt Lake City Olympics, an FBI agent quietly sought out French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne to ask if she knew a Russian mobster who lived in the south of France.
The Russian's name was Alimzan Tokhtakhounov.
The agent said he was following a tip from an anonymous source in London that a deal had been reached between French skating federation president Didier Gailhaguet and Tokhtakhounov: If Gailhaguet fixed the pairs event, Tokhtakhounov would give $1 million to the French hockey team.
Le Gougne later recanted but still was suspended, as was the head of the French skating federation, Didier Gailhaguet. Neither returned telephone messages seeking comment, but Le Gougne's Salt Lake City-based lawyer, Erik Christiansen, said she "has no involvement and no knowledge of this person or these allegations."
A week after the pairs competition, the ice dancing team of Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat won France's first gold in figure skating since 1932. Anissina was born in Russia. Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh of Russia took the silver.
When asked about the charges, Peizerat told The Associated Press: "I have never heard of this man."
Tokhtakhounov was arrested at his resort in Forte dei Marmi in northern Italy. He was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit bribery relating to sporting contests. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.
The criminal complaint identified Tokhtakhounov as a "major figure in international Eurasian Organized Crime."
According to the complaint, Tokhtakhounov "has been involved in drug distribution, illegal arms sales and trafficking in stolen vehicles." A confidential source told the FBI that he also had fixed beauty pageants in Moscow in the early 1990s.
The complaint alleges he used his influence with members of the Russian and French skating federations "in order to fix the outcome of the pairs and ice dancing competitions at the 2002 Olympics."
The court papers also contend he worked with "unnamed co-conspirators."
Federal investigators said they obtained recorded telephone conversations between Tokhtakhounov and a French ice dancer, in which he brags about being able to influence the outcome of competitions, a senior law enforcement official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The official was not certain whether the ice dancer was one of the winning team members.
The complaint made clear the case was based on confidential informants and wiretaps. At one point, it said wiretaps caught the defendant talking to a female ice dancer's mother, telling her, "We are going to make your daughter an Olympic champion -- even if she falls, we will make sure she is number one."
Skating officials were stunned by the allegations.
Lloyd Ward, head of the U.S. Olympic Committee, said the organization was "deeply concerned."
"American athletes and the competitors from all nations must be assured that they compete on a level playing field," he said.
Giselle Davies, spokeswoman for the International Olympic Committee, said: "This kind of alleged activity has no place in the Olympic movement."
Pam Coburn, head of Skate Canada, added, "The severity of these allegations is shocking."
Like the pairs competition, ice dancing was a point of controversy at the games.
Lithuanians Margarita Drobiazko and Povilas Vanagas, who finished fifth, filed a protest questioning the voting that placed the couple lower than the Italian and Canadian couples who fell during the free dance, the final phase of the competition. The International Skating Union rejected the protest.
The Lithuanians said they didn't expect to win their appeal but came forward to generate publicity and expose judging inconsistencies.
"We wouldn't have done it unless there was such a stark realization that something was wrong, especially with the two skaters falling," said John Domanskis, spokesman for the Lithuanian Olympic team. "That certainly made it easier for our skaters to say, 'Yes, there is a problem, and it should be corrected.'"
Wednesday, 31 July, 2002, 19:44 GMT 20:44 UK
'Mafia boss' held for Olympic fixing
The French team won the ice dancing competition
An alleged Russian crime boss has been arrested on charges that he tried to fix certain skating competitions at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
United States Federal prosecutors said the man, Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, was arrested in Italy on charges of trying to influence the judges.
"The defendant was arrested by Italian law enforcement authorities with the assistance of the FBI," said a statement from the office of the US Attorney in New York.
Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier were awarded late gold medals
A criminal complaint filed in Manhattan federal court identified Mr Tokhtakhounov as a "major figure in international Eurasian organised crime".
The complaint alleges that he used his influence with members of the Russian and French skating federations to fix the outcome of the pairs and ice dancing competitions at the 2002 Olympics.
According to the Associated Press news agency, prosecutors allege that Mr Tokhtakhounov arranged for the Russian judge to vote for the French ice dancing team of Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat. The pair won a gold medal.
In exchange, he is alleged to have been influential in getting the French judge to vote for the Russian figure skating team of Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, which also won gold.
This latter decision was marked by controversy during the games.
The Russian team only beat Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier by the slimmest of margins.
A day after the awards were given, French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne admitted she had been pressurised by French figure skating President Didier Gailhaguet to put the Russians first.
The judges subsequently awarded gold medals to the Canadian team as well, and both Ms Le Gougne and Mr Gailhaguet were suspended from the International Skating Union for three years.
The Olympic ice dancing competition was also mired in controversy.
The Lithuanians, who finished fifth, filed a protest questioning the judging of the competition, claiming they should not have been placed lower than the Italian and Canadian couples, who fell during the final phase of the competition.
The International Skating Union rejected the protest.
At the time, the Lithuanians said they did not expect to win their appeal but came forward to generate publicity and expose judging inconsistencies.
"It was an impetus to do it, but we would not have done it unless there was such a stark realization that something was wrong," said John Domanskis, spokesman for the Lithuanian Olympic team.