- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2002

PARIS (AP) The president of the French skating federation called the decision to award a second Olympic gold medal to Canada in the pairs competition "total nonsense."

Didier Gailhaguet, returning from the Winter Games in Salt Lake City, also insisted yesterday that there was no wrongdoing on the part of either French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne or the French skating federation.

"We were dirtied in a media affair without precedent," Gailhaguet said.

Le Gougne sparked one of the biggest controversies in Olympic skating history this month when she cast a crucial vote in favor of Russians Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze over Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier. The Russians won 5-4 despite an obvious technical error.

Le Gougne at first said she'd been pressured into voting for the Russians by Gailhaguet apparently in a vote-swapping deal to assure a victory in ice dancing for the French couple, Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat. But then she recanted that story and said she had voted honestly and with her conscience.

Canadian judge Benoit Lavoie was quoted in yesterday's editions of Le Journal de Montreal as saying that Le Gougne "confessed to not having had a choice in favoring the Russian couple" for the gold medal.

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