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Upset Russians ask IOC to look at gymnastics

Posted: Tuesday August 24, 2004 12:28PM; Updated: Tuesday August 24, 2004 12:30PM
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ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- The Russian Olympic delegation added its voice to the growing list of Olympic malcontents Tuesday, complaining that its two biggest stars got cheated in the gymnastics competition.

The Russians sent letters to the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) and to International Olympic Committee president Jaques Rogge to complain about scoring that cost Svetlana Khorkina a gold medal in the women's all-around and kept Alexei Nemov off the medal stand in high bar event finals.

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The Russians, however, said they aren't expecting any changes in the outcomes of the competitions and have no plans to contact the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

"We would like to inform the International Olympic Committee that all is not well in the International Gymnastic Federation with judging," the head of the Russian delegation, Anatoly Kolesov, said on Russian TV station, First Channel. "There are favorites and there are non-favorites."

In event finals Monday night, Nemov performed a sterling high bar routine that included six release moves and looked much more difficult than anything the other nine gymnasts did. He took a big step on his landing, however, and finished fifth. Fans booed for 10 minutes after his score was posted and Nemov said he thought the score was too low.

Khorkina finished second in the all-around to American Carly Patterson last Thursday, and also complained that the result was known before the meet even began.

Russian delegation spokesman Gennady Shvets portrayed the letter to Rogge as "not an official protest. Just a letter."

"Nobody's doing anything to change the results, or change the medals," Shvets said. "We want Jacques Rogge to pay more attention to the sport. "

Under normal circumstances, the IOC does not get involved in protests, or changing results, unless asked to by the governing body of a sport. FIG, meanwhile, has said it will not change results based on judgment calls after the competition is over.

FIG spokesman Philippe Silacci said Tuesday the entire competition will be evaluated when the technical committee meets in October.

"As usual," Silacci said. "Each official championship is reviewed with the videotape. ... That's the regulation."

Nemov's routine provided the latest incident in a week filled with controversy at the gymnastics arena.

Only when Nemov stepped onto the podium and asked for quiet did the booing stop. That allowed American Paul Hamm to perform. He scored a 9.812 that earned him a silver medal.

Hamm won the gold medal in the all-around, but that victory was disputed. After South Korea complained, FIG suspended three judges on the parallel bars panel for unfairly docking Yang Tae-young a tenth of a point on his "start value," the difficulty of the routine. The South Korean won the bronze medal, but had he received the extra tenth, he would have finished first.

FIG, however, has refused to change the result of the meet.

"We realize that our appeal is unlikely to change final results of competitions, but we must draw attention of the International Olympic Committee to the existing problem," Kolesov told the Itar-Tass news agency. "One must not reconcile with the existing state of affairs."

This isn't the first time the Russians have complained about their athletes being slighted. They threatened to walk out of the Salt Lake City Games in 2002, claiming judges were biased against the Russians. They also demanded -- unsuccessfully -- an additional gold medal for Irina Slutskaya after she was edged by Sarah Hughes for the women's figure skating title.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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