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Skating Union Opens Hearings on Controversial Olympic Judging - 2002-04-29

The International Skating Union opens a two-day hearing Monday aimed at closing the judging controversy which gave a Canadian couple a unique duplicate pairs gold at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.

But the hearing has already been overshadowed by the French federation chief, who says he was the victim of a plot and is threatening to go to higher courts if he is not cleared. Didier Gailhaguet says he will not rule out the possibility of appealing to the European Court of Human Rights to defend the reputation of the French federation.

French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne, who has been suspended for alleged misconduct after briefly admitting she had been pressured by Gailhaguet to throw her vote to the victorious Russian pair, is taking a similar approach.

Le Gougne argued she quickly recanted her admission made during emotional distress and voted for the Russians in good conscience. She claims she is a "scapegoat" and is threatening to take the case to sports' supreme tribunal, the Court for Arbitration of Sport.

The ISU awarded the second gold to Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier because of Le Gougne's alleged misconduct. ISU officials hope the hearing will bring closure to the scandal before the start of the four-day ISU Congress in Kyoto, Japan on June third. The ISU hopes to push through sweeping change at the meeting to restore the reputation of the sport.