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Canadian Figure Skaters Awarded Gold Medals - 2002-02-15

After four days of controversy, Olympic officials said Friday that Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier will be awarded a gold medal for Monday's disputed pairs figure skating event. The decision came after a French judge was suspended for misconduct.

Ottavio Cinquanta of the International Skating Union announced the suspension of the French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne whose decision effectively gave the gold to the Russians. The ISU official cited misconduct by the judge. "This misconduct has not provided all the skaters involved to be judged equally," he said.

The skating union asked Olympic officials to award the gold to the two Canadians, while letting the two Russians keep their medal.

Early Friday morning, Jacques Rogge, head of the International Olympic Committee, convened a meeting of IOC officials. "The executive board of the IOC agreed, and a gold medal will be awarded to the Canadian pair," he said.

The nine judges in Monday's event had favored Russians Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze by a 5-4 decision, with French judge Le Gougne casting the swing vote. Le Gougne later told an interviewer she had been pressured into voting for the Russians.

The Canadians will not take their case to a panel of arbitrators, as they had planned, but they are demanding an investigation of the disputed vote.

After Friday's announcement, Canadian Olympic official Mike Chambers thanked the skating union and IOC officials. "We frankly climbed a mountain here, and lo and behold, we reached the top," he said. "I can assure you, many said it couldn't be done 48 hours ago, reflective of the leadership by example of Jamie and David, we just went on the ice of the Olympic games and skated our best performance."

Most independent observers thought the Canadians put in the best performance.

Friday, Jamie Sale thanked the many fans who demanded Olympic officials reconsider the judges' decision. "Thank you all for your tremendous support and for being there for us," she said.

The IOC's Rogge says resolution of the dispute is good for all the athletes, and the public and media can focus once again on the Olympic competition.