Olympics over, but Russian anger continues

Posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2002

MOSCOW -- Though the Winter Olympics are over, resentment still runs high in Russia.

A report on state television RTR summing up the games detailed Russians' disappointment and anger over their medal tally and decisions they believe denied victory to some athletes and devalued that of others. It took some swipes at American culture as well.

''They were the most expensive Olympics for America, the most difficult for the Russian team and the most scandalous in the past 20 years,'' RTR's reporter said in Salt Lake City. ''But Americans enjoyed the Olympics. They say it was a real show and a show doesn't have to be bad or good, it just has to be huge.''

The final blow for Russia came Sunday when cross-country skier Larissa Lazutina was stripped of her gold medal in the 30-kilometer classical race after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug intended to help kidney patients avoid anemia.

Russian skier Olga Danilova was also disqualified after testing positive for the drug, darbepoetin.

Russian Olympic Committee chairman Leonid Tyagachev told a news conference in Salt Lake City that those disqualifications would be appealed to the international sports arbitration court in Lausanne, Switzerland, ''to defend the honor of our athletes.''

The head of the Russian Olympic Committee's anti-doping service, Nikolai Durman, sharply criticized the moves against Lazutina and Danilova.

''The fact that they made such a decision is a disgrace, it's a stain on the qualifications of the IOC medical commission,'' he told television network NTV.

But Russia's Olympic officials also came in for some criticism from political circles.

Sergei Mironov, head of the upper house of the Russian parliament, said the Russian Olympic Committee was naive in not objecting to an agreement that called for NHL referees to officiate games in which more than 50 percent of the players were league stars. That included the semifinals and the final.

''How did it happen that the final matches were judged by officials from the NHL, who are practically representatives of the two countries Canada and the United States? When a match in which the United States and Russia play is judged by the United States, that's complete nonsense,'' he said Monday on the Echo of Moscow radio station.

''It seems to me that it's necessary for our sports organizations ... to approach matters more carefully,'' Mironov said.

Russians were first angered at the games in the controversy over the figure skating gold medal won by Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze. Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier were awarded a second gold following wide complaints and a French judge's statement that she was pressured to vote for the Russians.

Then, skater Irina Slutskaya finished second behind American Sarah Hughes and Russia unsuccessfully demanded a second gold for her. The United States' 3-2 victory over Russia in the hockey quarterfinals brought complaints of biased officiating.

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