Not a good time to be a judge

Posted: Friday, February 22, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY -- It was a day when silver medals led to bitter tears and judges' decisions led to bitter threats of a walkout.

A pair of disqualifications had officials from Russia and South Korea angrily wondering how much longer they will be in Utah.

The Russians, with a threat to leave Salt Lake City within 24 hours, and the South Koreans, with a warning that they could sit out the closing ceremony, added their voices Thursday to the growing howl over Olympic officiating.

Russian officials, outraged by the disqualification of nine-time medal winner Larissa Lazutina after a pre-race drug test, added they might not compete in the 2004 Summer Games in Athens unless their complaints were addressed in the next day.

''If decisions are not made and issues we raised not resolved, the Russian team will not play hockey, will not run 30 kilometers,'' said Russian Olympic Committee president Leonid Tyagachev, referring to a pair of upcoming events.

IOC President Jacques Rogge did meet with Tyagachev to discuss his complaints. Rogge then sent a conciliatory letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

''He knew President Putin was concerned and had expressed his own emotions,'' said IOC director general Francois Carrard. ''President Rogge wrote to express sympathy, to say he has been in contact with the sports federation and that the decisions are absolutely correct.''

The Russian hockey team plays in a semifinal game Friday against the U.S. squad in a rematch of the 1980 ''Miracle on Ice'' game.

The South Koreans, still stinging from Wednesday's disqualification of short-track speedskater Kim Dong-sung, wanted his gold medal restored. After Kim finished first, he was disqualified and the medal given to U.S. skater Apolo Anton Ohno.

South Korean officials said they had filed a bevy of protests, might go to federal court, and could pull out of Sunday's closing ceremony. On Thursday night, the International Skating Union rejected their protest.

''We will use all measures necessary to rectify the misjudgment,'' said Park Sung-in, head of the country's Olympic delegation.

Complaints about officiating in the Winter Games have already come from Canada over figure skating and Lithuania about the ice dancing. The Russians earlier griped about scoring in the freestyle aerials.

The silver medals by the U.S. women's hockey team and Miller boosted the American medal total to 30 (10 gold, 11 silver, nine bronze).

With just three days left in the Olympics, the Germans -- who have won the most medals ever in a single Winter Games -- led with 32 (10 gold, 15 silver, seven bronze), and Norway was third with 20 (10-7-3).

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