Witness tells ISU about French judge's 'confession'Posted: Tuesday February 19, 2002 8:16 PM
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Skating union investigators Tuesday interviewed a championship judge who said he witnessed a "confession" of a vote-swapping deal by the French woman in the middle of the judging scandal.
The internal investigation is focusing on what the deal was, who made it, and who pressured French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne to vote for a Russian pairs team over a Canadian couple.
"I left the interview with confidence that they'll get to the bottom of it," said Jon Jackson, an International Skating Union judge and an attorney from San Francisco. "They did a very thorough job."
Jackson would not reveal details of his discussion with the two ISU officials conducting the investigation, vice president Gerhard Zimmerman of Germany and legal adviser Gerhardt Bubnik of the Czech Republic.
But shortly before the meeting, Jackson spoke about a letter he wrote to the ISU last week, detailing what he described as an emotional and spontaneous "confession" by Le Gougne in a hotel lobby about an hour after the pairs competition.
"I was right there," he said. "She came right up to Sally Stapleford [an ISU council member] and said, 'Ice dancing is ruining the sport of figure skating. I have to defend myself. I did this for my dance team. It's a deal with the Russians, first place for first place.'
"She was very clear and unequivocal. There was no misunderstanding. She's a very bright woman and she speaks perfect English. I walked away feeling they're finally going to crack open corruption in figure skating. I had just witnessed a very clear confession."
Jackson said he wrote a letter to the ISU about the incident after watching ISU president Ottavio Cinquanta's news conference on Feb. 13, two days after the pairs competition ended.
"It sounded like maybe he didn't have all the information," Jackson said. "It was surprising to me."
ISU council member Walburga Grimm, one of three people on the figure skating technical committee who signed a separate letter to Cinquanta, said she also saw Le Gougne's emotional outburst.
"She kept saying she was under pressure from her federation to vote for the Russians," Grimm said. "I told her it's your duty to be fair and honest. Her judging was not fair."
Grimm said the only person in the French federation who could have pressured Le Gougne was federation president Didier Gailhaguet.
"No other person is here from the French federation," Grimm said.
Gailhaguet has insisted that he didn't make a deal or exert influence over Le Gougne about how to vote. He said he expects to be interviewed by the ISU investigators on Wednesday.
"I am totally at ease to meet them," he said.
Russia's Alexandr Gorshkov, chairman of the ISU ice dance committee and referee for the event here, said he was unaware who, if anyone, from his country might have been involved in any vote-swapping deal.
The French ice dancing team of Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat wound up winning the gold, with a Russian couple taking the silver and Italian couple the bronze.
As if figure skating needed any more controversy, the Lithuanians, who finished fifth in ice dancing, filed a protest with Gorshkov about the judging.
The protest questioned voting that put them lower than two other couples who fell during Monday's final phase of competition.
"After the Italians fell, the judges put them before us," said Lithuania's Margarita Drobiazko, who, with partner Povilas Vanagas, placed fifth in each of the three phases of dance competition. "We skated better than them ... and nothing changed. Funny sport."
The protest came a day after Cinquanta proposed sweeping changes in the way figure skating is scored in an attempt to eliminate judging misconduct.